Phil Mickelson's heartbreaking sixth US Open runner-up finish without a victory is the toughest of them all to take, he said, in part because he saw it as his best chance to end the jinx.
On his 43rd birthday, Mickelson yet again settled for a share of second place on Sunday at Merion, with England's Justin Rose capturing his first major crown by two strokes over the American left-hander and Australian Jason Day.
"This week was my best opportunity, I felt heading in, certainly the final round, the way I was playing and the position I was in," Mickelson said.
"This one's probably the toughest for me because at 43 and coming so close five times, it would have changed way I look at this tournament and the way I would have looked at my record -- except I just keep feeling heartbreak."
Mickelson is only one shy of the career record of seven runner-up finishes in the same major held by Jack Nicklaus from the British Open. The 18-time major winner was second at the British Open in 1964, 1967, 1968, 1972, 1976, 1977 and 1979.
But more importantly, Nicklaus won the British Open in 1966, 1970 and 1978.
"If I had won today or if I ultimately win, I'll look back at the other Opens and think that it was a positive thing," Mickelson said.
"If I never get the Open, then I look back and I think that every time I think of the US Open, I just think of heartbreak."
Mickelson previously finished second to the late Payne Stewart at Pinehurst in 1999, Tiger Woods at Bethpage in 2002, Retief Goosen at Shinnecock in 2004, Geoff Ogilvy at Winged Foot in 2006 and Lucas Glover at Bethpage in 2009.
"It's very heartbreaking," Mickelson said. "This could have been a really big turnaround for me on how I look at the US Open and the tournament that I'd like to win after having so many good opportunities."
After leading at the end of each of the first three rounds and especially after sinking a 76-yard eagle from the rough at the 10th hole to take the lead in the final round, Mickelson's thought his long-sought victory was in reach.
"To see that ball go in, I really thought that I was in a good position," Mickelson said. "I also knew, though, that I wasn't ahead of anybody by much... but that shot vaulted me up and allowed me to be more patient."
But Mickelson surrendered the lead after bogeys at the par-3 13th and par-4 15th following bad wedge shots. Those will haunt him when he looks back at what seemed to be a date with destiny at Merion.
"Those wedge shots on 13 and 15 are the two I will look back on," Mickelson said after going over the 13th green and being short and left at 15. "Those two wedge shots were the two costly shots.
"I had good opportunities all the way through and let it slide little bit. But all day it seemed as though, until that hole out on 10, it seemed like I would hit putt after putt that wouldn't go in."
Mickelson's day began with a long birdie putt lip-out on the first hole and a short one at the second. He followed with double bogeys at the third and fifth around a birdie at the fourth.
"I should have made bogeys on those holes and I let them become doubles," he said. "And those were costly doubles."