‘Horrific’ putting effort dooms lefty
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — The preparation was satisfactory, the swing felt good, solid shots were rewarded. So how did Phil Mickelson struggle to a 4-over-par 75 yesterday in the first round of the US Open?
“I just putted horrific,’’ Mickelson said, after a round in which he missed at least four birdie putts inside of 8 feet. “It’s very frustrating for me to miss all those opportunities. I don’t mind making a bad swing here, there, making a bogey here, there. It’s part of the US Open. [But] I need to putt well.’’
Mickelson failed to make a birdie, the first time he’s recorded that dubious distinction in a PGA Tour event in three years.
He also played out of turn and was asked about a possible rules infraction on No. 4. Playing his second shot from the long bunker that winds up the right side toward the green, even though Padraig Harrington was away, Mickelson left his ball in the bunker, then began smoothing the sand with his right foot. Mike Davis, the US Golf Association’s senior director of rules and competition, was watching on television, and saw what Mickelson did.
Davis asked the rules official in the group to check with Mickelson; if he had been kicking the sand in disgust, with his ball still in the hazard, Mickelson would have been penalized. But smoothing the sand is acceptable, so no penalty was incurred.
Despite the high number — it’s his worst opening round at the US Open since a 75 in 1997 — Mickelson wasn’t about to push the panic button.
“There’s no way under par is going to win here, I don’t believe,’’ he said. “I think over par will win. Because of that, I’m right there.’’
“I’m disappointed, it wasn’t what I wanted at all. Honestly, this was about as high as I could have shot today, and I hate rounds like that,’’ Curran said. “I hit bad shots when you can’t hit bad shots.’’
Curran birdied No. 6 and made the turn in 1 over, but bogeys on the par-4 11th, the par-5 14th, and the par-3 17th, when he three-putted from close to 100 feet, left him with the sense that a lower number was out there.
He had an interesting experience on No. 3, a downhill par 4 that doglegs left. Curran’s tee shot, on a line down the left side, struck a tree and caromed farther left, coming to rest on the 16th green while Mickelson, Harrington, and Y.E. Yang were playing. Those three finished the hole, and while Curran waited for a ruling, the next group played onto the 16th green. Some 15 minutes later, Curran was finally able to take his free drop, then hit a 9-iron over the grandstand behind the 16th green and onto the fringe of the third. Two putts from there, and a par that was anything but routine.
So Harrington took a few practice swings, got over the ball, then stopped and reconsidered, asking for a sand wedge. He hacked it into the fairway, hit his third shot on, but missed the par putt, his fourth bogey in a six-hole stretch (his group started on No. 10). He’d go on to bogey the third hole to stand 4 over, but closed with birdies on Nos. 6 and 9 to finish with a 2-over 73.
Michael Whitmer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org