SAN DIEGO — Phil Mickelson had been aiming at this U.S. Open like none other.
He altered his usual routine leading into a major championship — playing a tournament the week before to stay sharp — to instead spend more time around Torrey Pines in the two weeks leading up to the event.
Mickelson spent some five to six hours a day on the greens alone, analyzing and videotaping break tendencies. He came into the week still feeling confident from his PGA Championship victory last month and bullish on his chances.
In the end, though, Mickelson could never put it together this week on one of his home courses as a youth, going out quietly on Sunday to finish the week at 11-over par.
Mickelson’s Sunday was anything like what he’d envisioned entering the week, hoping to be in the heat of the mix in the final round with a chance to win. Instead, his was the fourth tee time of the day, at 7:03 a.m. alongside a qualifier named Greyson Sigg.
They played in relative silence, which is a rarity for Mickelson, one of the most popular players in the history of the game.
“Obviously, I’m disappointed I didn’t play better,’’ Mickelson said after he was finished. “I was kind of fighting it a little bit and struggled a little bit on Thursday. I really found something on Friday, and felt like, ‘OK, I’m just going to start playing like I did at Kiawah into the weekend,’ and Saturday I lost it.’’
Mickelson began the third round at 2-over par and seven shots out of the lead, hardly insurmountable with 36 holes remaining. But the 76 he shot on Saturday wrecked his chances of making any sort of charge.
“It happens,’’ he said. “I just lost the timing, the rhythm got quick and I started hitting it sideways, which you can’t do out here.’’“There’s some opportunities coming up with the way I’ve been playing that I’m optimistic that I can compete and contend.”
Mickelson, who turned 51 on Wednesday, is scheduled to play the Travelers Championship this week in Cromwell, Conn., and he remains optimistic he’ll return to the form he had at Kiawah Island.
The worst break of the day came to Mackenzie Hughes, who entered the day with a share of the lead. Hughes hit a shot into a tree on the 11th hole, and it stayed up there. He was forced to take a drop and took double bogey to end his chances of winning.
“It’s just one of those breaks … like one-in-a-million break,’’ Hughes said. “I’ve played golf my entire life, and I’ve never had a ball stuck in a tree. For it to happen on the back nine of a U.S. Open felt unfortunate because, if that ball is over there in the grass, I’ve got a chance to get up-and-down for par, and that’s a different outlook than trying to get up-and-down for bogey. Just a really bad break, and an unfortunate time to have it happen.’’
It was quite a week for Matthew Wolff, who played this week after taking two months off for mental health reasons. Wolff was in contention right into Sunday’s final round and finished tied for 15th.
Afterward, he called the week “more than I hoped.’’
“Just enjoying myself this week was the main goal, and at the beginning of the week I was maybe even thinking the possibility of finishing dead last wasn’t even out of my mind. And to come here and fight how I did, just battle to the end … unfortunately it didn’t go my way, but I put a huge checkmark on this week as a success and just looking to build and get stronger and a little more mature.’’
Harris English, who finished 3-under for the tournament, had the lead in the clubhouse for a little while.
“I love these tournaments,’’ English said. “From the U.S. Junior to the U.S. Amateur to now the U.S. Open, I love this golf. It’s my mentality, and I think it really suits my game just plodding along, not having to shoot super aggressive and shoot low scores. I love championships and love scores like this. It’s been a lot of fun this week.’’
There was an interesting pairing Sunday with Richard Bland, the 48-yer-old Englishman who shared the 36-hole lead, and Italian Guido Migliozzi, who Bland beat in a playoff last month at the British Masters to capture his first career victory. Migliozzi shot 68 on Sunday to finish 2-under for the week and in a tie for fourth while Bland shot 78 and finished 8-over par.
“This is probably a game of two halves,’’ Bland said. “The first two days were great, and then I found out what the U.S. Open is really about. If there’s something that’s just 5 percent off, it just kills you out here. Overall it’s been a positive week. I’ll probably remember the first two days more than the second two.’’
As for the Italian brothers, Francesco and Edoardo Molinari, Francesco got the better of his older brother, finishing even-par for the week while Edoardo finished 5-over.