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Phil Mickelson’s collapse during U.S. Open was heartbreaking for many reasons

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Phil Mickelson during the final round of the U.S. Open on Sunday.
Phil Mickelson during the final round of the U.S. Open on Sunday.  

Chances are you’ve heard this one before, so bear with me as a visit to Portmarnock Golf Club less than 12 hours after Phil Mickelson’s latest U.S. Open heartache, on his birthday of all days, brought an old story back to light.

Tom Cryan is one of the legendary names of Irish sports journalism, a man who grafted for the Irish Independent newspaper at a time when typewriters and pens were the tools of the trade, and computers were something you saw in James Bond movies.

Known to one and all as The Squire, Tom was a jack of all trades as far as most sports were concerned, and a master in the noble arts of boxing and golf.

He was also a founding member of the Dublin Journalists Golf Society, an august body which celebrates its 40th birthday next year when his spirit and wisdom will be remembered with fondness by those who now traipse the fairways under the same umbrella.

On Monday morning, in the very pleasant surroundings of Portmarnock, some 40 odd of us walked the fairways together in the latest society outing. And one particular story from the Tom Cryan library was never more relevant.

Many, many years ago Tom advised a young wannabe sport hack that he was about to enter a rough business where no quarter was ever asked or given. And he offered the youthful man a warning which went along the lines of: “If you’re looking for sympathy, you’ll find it in the dictionary between s*** and syphilis.”
The story is still told with fondness by those who value such things in an industry losing the run of itself with Internet offerings and social media.

And it came up again on Monday as we digested the overnight TV offerings from the Merion Golf Club as Justin Rose triumphed at the U.S. Open and Phil Mickelson was left to look in the dictionary for sympathy, somewhere between s*** and syphilis as it happens.

Phil wouldn’t have found much sympathy on the fairways of Portmarnock among Monday’s golfers it has to be said. His name is on a wall of fame inside the clubhouse, having represented the USA as they won a very famous Walker Cup match in North County Dublin in 1991, and Mickelson had many supporters in Monday’s company before his collapse in the final round on Sunday.

The reason for his popularity among the Irish golfing press was simple. A week earlier, in the fine surroundings of Powerscourt golf course in Co. Wicklow, event sponsors Paddy Power had offered all finishers a free bet on the U.S. Open to match their stableford points tally.

Thus I had a €25 free bet on events at Merion. The outing winner Philip Quinn, a fine journalist from the ranks of the Irish Daily Mail, had €31 to bet on the U.S. Open courtesy of Paddy and the Powers.
And when Philip advised to put the money on American hero Lefty, on a course that would really suit him, a big gang of us followed suit at a whopping 22/1.

In total, 11 members of our society had money on Mickelson. We stood to win over €10,000 between us if he delivered on Sunday night. I was set to land a cool €550. And we did dream. Big time.

One member went to the Swedish furniture outlet Ikea and picked out a new sofa for his wife from his prospective winnings.

Another promised to buy himself a new set of Callaway irons, the brand Phil uses, in honor of the expected triumph.

The money was all but counted by all and sundry as Lefty led the way at Merion on Thursday night, Friday night and Saturday night.

When he chipped in for eagle at the par four 10th on Sunday, I let out such a roar in the offices of the Irish Sun that I was asked to quiet down by the news desk, hundreds of yards away!

So you can start to imagine how we all felt when the U.S. Open slipped from Mickelson’s grasp for a sixth time on Sunday evening as we watched in agony on Sky Sports and our winnings were denied by a fine English Rose.

It was as hard on us as I am sure it was for Mickelson himself, but he has enough money not to worry about the price of an Ikea couch, and I know he already possesses enough Callaway clubs to open his own shop.
He let us down on Sunday, and while I am sure we will eventually forgive Mickelson his latest U.S. Open failure, I am not sure we will ever forget it.

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