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The Open has always been a place where Mickelson seems to be in the midst of something besides golf. The last time he was the runner-up, in 2009 at Bethpage in New York, his wife Amy had just been diagnosed with breast cancer and his defeat was tempered by the reality of her illness and treatment.
He's now set up for either his greatest win since his Masters breakthrough in 2004 or the most bitter of all his many Open losses. He was honest enough to say that after his opening 67, noting how heartbreaking it would be if he were never to win this tournament.
But the stars all seem to be aligning for this one. Woods is not a factor, Schwartzel is the only other major winner in the top 10, and Mickelson has the lead all by himself.
Oh, yeah, it's also Father's Day for the father of three and it's his 43rd birthday, too.
"It's got the makings to be something special, but I still have to go out and perform and play some of my best golf," Mickelson said.
There are 18 holes and about five hours of work left to do, and a lot of trouble in between. But Mickelson is exuding the quiet confidence of someone who has figured it out, someone who knows what to do.
He understands that if you don't win your own national championship you will never be considered an all-time great. He knows that he won't have another 23 chances to get it done.
Mickelson has a chance to write his own ending to this story, and make it a best seller.
If he doesn't, this may go down as the one Open loss he'll never shake.
Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at email@example.com or http://twitter.com/timdahlberg
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