PINEHURST, N.C. -- Sometime this month, Phil Mickelson expects to be called Dad. He'll have to wait longer to be known as U.S. Open champion.
With a melancholy grin on his face, Mickelson stood by helplessly Sunday while Payne Stewart rolled in a 15-foot par putt on the final hole, claiming the championship by one stroke at famed Pinehurst No. 2.Mickelson was clearly disappointed after failing to win his first major title, but he'll get over it quickly. Back home in Scottsdale, Ariz., his wife, Amy, is awaiting the birth of their first child.
The big event is only weeks away -- maybe even days.
"I think it would have made a cool story for my daughter to read about as she got older," said Mickelson, who led the tournament with three holes to go but couldn't hold on. "This is still something special."
With a beeper in hand, the 29-year-old Mickelson was prepared to drop his clubs and return home as soon as his wife went into labor -- even if he was leading the Open.
Amy Mickelson isn't scheduled to deliver until June 30, but a few rocky moments early in the pregnancy made the expectant father a little skittish about being so far from home.
"It's not worth the tournament," Mickelson said a few days ago. "As important as the U.S. Open is to me and every other player in the field, this is the birth of my first child."
Mickelson was one shot behind Stewart when they teed off together in the final round. Never separated by more than two shots, they waged a stirring battle of one-upmanship through the North Carolina pines on a cool, misty day.
At No. 15, Mickelson nearly made a 40-footer for birdie, the ball spinning all the way around the cup before popping out. He tapped in for par and took the lead for the second time when Stewart missed from 5 feet.
But Mickelson missed a 6-footer at No. 16 for his first bogey of the round. Stewart, meanwhile, made a 25-footer for par to reclaim a share of the lead.
At 17, Stewart put his tee shot within 4 feet of the cup, then Mickelson nearly matched him with a sterling drive that settled 7 feet away.
Mickelson missed. Stewart didn't.
Going to the final hole down by a stroke, a playoff seemed likely when Stewart's tee shot disappeared into the tall grass off the right side of the fairway. Mickelson's drive was straight down the middle and he put his second shot 25 feet from the flag.
Stewart laid up from the rough and chipped onto the green, leaving an uphill putt to save par. Mickelson was a little further away, with a difficult left-to-right slope to negotiate.
The left-hander's birdie putt slid just by the hole, leaving an even-par round of 70 and an even-par tournament of 280.
Mickelson walked off the course and immediately called his wife, who was suffering just as much as he was. But little Amanda -- the name they have picked out for their child -- should help ease the pain.
"This is a disappointing day," Mickelson said. "But in the next couple of days we're expecting our first child, so that evens it out."