SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y -- Phil Mickelson thought he had the golf tournament won when he left the 16th green at 4-under and with a one-shot lead. A short birdie putt seconds earlier at the par-5 hole capped a remarkable run of three birdies in four holes between No. 13 and No. 16.
"After I birdied 16, I had a one-shot lead, and I thought this was going to be the day," Mickelson said.
But he didn't count on No. 17.
While much has been made of Mickelson's newfound control off the tee, it was his putter that did him in on the second-to-last hole and cost him the U.S. Open and the second leg of the Grand Slam.
After putting a 6-iron into the front-left bunker on No. 17, a 179-yard par 3, Mickelson knocked his sand shot some eight feet past the hole.
"It wasn't a hard shot," said Mickelson of the blast out of the bunker. "I had a good lie, but the green, we saw it bounce up the air, it just took it. I certainly didn't want to be long."
Facing a lightning-fast downhill putt on a green that had spent four days baking in the sun, Mickelson missed the par putt to the left and ended up with a putt of similar length coming back for bogey.
He missed that too and walked off the green with a double-bogey 5. Retief Goosen, who trailed Mickelson by a shot 10 minutes earlier, now had a two-shot lead.
"The putt was downwind," said Mickelson of the missed par putt, "and when the wind gets a hold of it on these greens, it just doesn't stop."
Playing partner Fred Funk echoed Mickelson's sentiments, saying that he just ended up on the wrong side of the hole.
"Nine out of 10 times, Phil gets that up-and-down," said Funk, who shot a final-round 77 and finished in 6th place at 5-over. "But he ended up on the wrong side of the hole. It was such a severe putt. You could see that if he missed, it was going to go that far by."
Mickelson, who had walked on to the tee at No. 17 so close to the U.S. Open championship that people were already booking their trips to Royal Troon for the British Open to see the third leg of the Grand Slam, instead headed to the 18th in need of a miracle.
That miracle didn't happen, and Mickelson was left to ponder his third second-place finish in a U.S. Open (1999 at Pinehurst and 2002 at Bethpage Black).
"I had an incredible experience at Augusta and just as thrilling as that was, this is equally disappointing to come so close in a tournament I've dreamt about as a kid playing well and winning," Mickelson said. "Being second now here [at the U.S. Open] three times, it's disappointing to me."
Even more disappointing for Mickelson is this: He played well on a day when the scoring average was 78.7, the second highest total ever in a U.S. Open final round. With the numbers going up on the board early Sunday, there were few takers on anyone being at 2-under at the end of the day.
"Absolutely. I though even-par for the tournament would win," Mickelson said. "I really thought today the way guys were coming back that even par would probably win the tournament.
"I'm not disappointed in the way I played at all. I just would have liked to have won, that's all. But I can't worry about the fact somebody else played better than me, because Retief played some great golf."
Goosen now has two U.S. Open trophies -- two more than Mickelson. The fans at Shinnecock showed up Sunday to see Mickelson win. The fans of New York have embraced him, and it was hard to find more than a handful of folks at the course Sunday not pulling for Lefty.
"Everybody was rooting for him so bad," Funk said. "I wanted him to win, so I'm a little disappointed. It's a little bit of a downer."
Peter Lawrence-Riddell is an editor for ESPN.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.