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Phil Mickelson won't get that elusive U.S. Open title this week

With a triple bogey on the 18th hole Saturday, Phil Mickelson finished a round of four-over-par 75 that eliminated any chance he had to capture his first U.S. Open.

After receiving a standing ovation from the gallery in the packed grandstands, the left-hander did something most unusual: He praised the U.S. Golf Assn.

Mickelson ripped the USGA before the tournament, saying that the only time Open setups were fair is if it rained during tournament week.

There has been no rain this week, and Mickelson went out of his way to praise the conditions and setup.

“I’m really happy that I had this chance, this opportunity this week,” Mickelson said. “I’ve got to hand it to the USGA for doing a great setup. It’s the best I’ve ever seen. And it’s identifying the best players.”

More pointedly, he added, “It’s making the players the story.”

Mickelson said the biggest difference was the placement of the flag sticks.

“Instead of putting them right on the edges, they were in good spots, rewarding great shots,” he said.

Mickelson wished he could have taken advantage at a site on which he has won a record-tying five AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Ams. At four over for the tournament, he will get an early starting time on the day he celebrates his 49th birthday.

He played the last two holes Saturday in four over. After a bogey at the par-three 17th, Mickelson chose driver off the tee at the par-five 18th and tried to blast it around the bend of the fairway. But the ball found the water, and Mickelson had to re-tee.

“If I hit a good drive, I'd be able to reach [the green in two],” Mickelson said. “And really, it was a test for me. I've been working on my driver. I've actually driven the ball pretty well this week. I've had a nice turn of events with the driver. I'm hitting the ball a lot straighter, and it was really a good test for me on that last drive there. And I'm not quite there, didn't pass that last test.”

He re-teed and found the fairway, but took three more shots to get on the green and two-putted for 8.

“I had many opportunities,” Mickelson said. “Didn't putt well. Didn't get them to go in. I left them short the whole time. And then I finished poorly.”

Knowing that this may be his last Open played at Pebble Beach — the major doesn’t return here until 2027 — Mickelson was philosophical.

“When I'm here at Pebble Beach, there's no place that I am more grateful for the life that I've been able to lead and my career and my family and so forth,” he said.

Woods feeling achy

Through three rounds of the 2000 U.S. Open, Tiger Woods had sprinted to a 10-shot lead on the way to his 15-stroke victory.

In the current Open at Pebble Beach, Woods is feeling like the badly beaten chasers those many years ago. He shot even-par 71 in the third round and at even for the tournament, he was 11 strokes off the lead.

Woods is showing his 43 years of age. After spending a long time on the practice putting green before the round, he wore therapeutic tape on his neck during the round. Woods admitted that the cool conditions, with temperatures in the low 60s, were not good for his fused back.

“When it’s cold like this, everything is achy,” he said. “It’s just part of the deal.

“The forces have to go somewhere. And if they're not in the lower back, they're in the neck, and if not, they're in the mid-back and if not they go to the knee. You name it.”

On Saturday, Woods bogeyed two of his first three holes — “an awful start” — and for the round he matched five birdies with five bogeys. He closed well, with birdies at the 16th and 18th. At the last, he thrilled the gallery by giving himself a 60-foot eagle putt.

Woods’ struggles have come with his putter; he was tied for 48th in putts per green in the weekend field of 79.

“If I had an uphill putt, I seemed to make them,” Woods said. “You’re able to take out the bounciness of this poa [grass]. Putting downhill it’s moving all over the place.”

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Reed laughs off tantrum

A day after Patrick Reed, in a fit of anger, snapped his wedge shaft in half at the 18th hole, he laughed it off as “no big deal.”

Talking to reporters after a third round of 72 that put him tied for 48th, Reed said, “It was comical after watching it afterwards. But it wasn’t comical having to go through hitting poor wedge shot after poor wedge shot, especially when I pride myself on my short game and being able to get up and down.”

The offending and broken club was a 61-degree wedge.

“Oh yeah, it deserved it. There’s a reason why I call it '61 and done,' and that’s why it’s done,” Reed said. “We always call it '61 and done' because it usually gets me out of jail all the time. It kept me in jail on that one.”

Reed’s tantrum was a hit on social media, but he didn’t think it deserved a lot of attention.

“I mean, at the end of the day, I got my anger out,” he said. “I didn’t do anything to the golf course; I didn’t say any obscenities or anything like that. It was a split-second and I moved on.”

sam.farmer@latimes.com

Follow Sam Farmer on Twitter @LATimesfarmer

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