Phil Mickelson found a way to pile another heartache on the stacks of disappointments he has accrued at the U.S. Open. And this one hurts more than all the others.
To be sure, there have been some good flameouts, none more wrenching than the final-hole disaster at Winged Foot in 2006 when he said of himself afterward, "I'm such an idiot." Or the three-putt from 5 feet at the 71st hole at Shinnecock in 2004.
This one didn't have the same type of collapse. Oh, it had a couple of poor wedge shots in the final six holes that Mickelson will remember as round-killers.
And it included a bogey on the final hole that, in the end, didn't make a difference.
But it had the same numbing, gut-impaling impact on Mickelson.
In fact, his second-place finish behind Justin Rose at the 113th U.S. Open, which only added to his already record number of runner-up finishes at the Open, was the most disturbing of all.
That was what Mickelson said when it was all over Sunday at Merion Golf Club, when another U.S. Open ended without him winning the tournament he dearly wants to win.
"This one is probably the toughest for me because, at 43, coming so close five times, it would have changed the way I look at the tournament altogether and my record. Except I just keep feeling heartache."
The day began with the galleries signing "Happy Birthday" to Mickelson, who turned 43 Sunday. It ended with some type of sad Righteous Brothers song ringing in his ears. Again.
Mickelson has finished second at the U.S. Open six times, two more than any other player.
The latest came Sunday when he bogeyed three of the final six holes, missed birdie chances at Nos. 16 and 17 and let Rose win his first major championship.
"For me, it's very heartbreaking," Mickelson said. "This could have really changed how I looked at the U.S. Open and the tournament I'd love to win. This was probably my best opportunity, certainly heading into the final round with the way I was playing and the position I was in."
Instead, Mickelson only will remember disappointment. And there have been all levels:
• In 1999 at Pinehurst No. 2, Mickelson headed into the final round a shot back of Payne Stewart and had a birdie putt on the final hole to tie. When he missed, Stewart made a dramatic 18-footer for par to win his second U.S. Open and third major championship.
• Mickelson was the fan favorite at Bethpage Black in 2002, but Tiger Woods beat him by three shots -- the third consecutive top-three finish in a major championship for Mickelson.
• Mickelson started the final round at Shinnecock in 2004 two shots back of Retief Goosen and made back-to-back birdies on Nos. 15 and 16. But needing a 5-foot putt for par at the par-3 17th, Mickelson three-putted for double bogey and lost by two shots.
• In his most crushing defeat, Mickelson needed only a par at the final hole at Winged Foot in 2006 to win. But he tried to thread a 3-iron through a small gap in the trees, hit the tree and made double bogey, handing the title to Geoff Ogilvy.
• In his return to Bethpage Black in 2009, Mickelson's eagle on the par-5 13th in the final round tied him for the lead with Lucas Glover. But he missed short putts on Nos. 14 and 16 and three-putted No. 15 to lose by two shots.
When asked if this defeat is tougher than the others, Mickelson said, "Very possibly, yeah. I would say it very well could be. I think this was my best chance."
When he looks back at his failed opportunities at Merion, Mickelson said he will remember the two double bogeys on the front nine, at Nos. 3 and 5, when he three-putted.
And he will remember poor wedge shots at No. 13, when he rifled his tee shot at the 121-yard par 3 over the green; and No. 15, when he came up short of the pin from the middle of the fairway and saw his ball trickle back to the fringe.
Those probably will stick with him more than the holed wedge from 75 yards for an eagle at No. 10, a shot that moved him into sole possession of the lead.
"Thirteen and 15 were the two bad shots of the day that I'll look back on where I let it go," Mickelson said.
"Those two wedge shots were the two costly shots."
Gerry Dulac: firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @gerrydulac.