With the chance this weekend to follow up on his win at the Masters Tournament in April and surpass Tiger Woods as the world’s No. 1 golfer, Mickelson shot a 4-over par 75 in the first round at Pebble Beach Golf Links today and is five shots off the early lead.
Mickelson, a five-time U.S. Open runner-up, began play on the oceanside course’s 10th hole and faltered early with three straight bogeys on Nos. 16, 17 and 18 -- where he launched his second shot from the first cut of rough on the right side of the fairway into the Pacific Ocean on the left. He also missed birdie putts from about five feet on the 14th and 15th holes.
“I just couldn’t make any birdies,” Mickelson, 40, said in a televised interview.
The reigning Masters champion is the 15-2 favorite to take his fifth major title by U.K. bookmaker William Hill Plc; Tiger Woods, a three-time U.S. Open winner, is second choice at 8-1. Mickelson finished tied for 16th the last time the U.S. Open was played at Pebble Beach in 2000. Woods won that year by a record 15 shots.
This was Mickelson’s highest opening score at the U.S. Open since 1997 at Congressional Country Club in Maryland, and the first time he has failed to make at least one birdie since the first round in 2007 at Oakmont Country Club in Pennsylvania.
‘Number of Opportunities’
“I don’t feel like I’m very off with the ball striking,” the left-hander said. “I gave myself a number of opportunities, but I’ve got to get the ball in the hole.”
Mickelson began today’s round with six straight pars. He came within inches of a birdie on the par-4 13th hole with a curling putt from about 50 feet before his trouble began on the par-4 16th.
When his iron shot from the tee trickled onto a grassy downslope on the edge of a fairway bunker, Mickelson was unable to advance his ball toward the green. After chipping out to the fairway, he left with his first bogey.
He then missed the par-3 17th green to the left and was forced to take a penalty drop, producing his second bogey.
On the 18th, his second shot from about 250 yards bounced high off the cement seawall and landed about 50 feet into Stillwater Cove.
‘Come on, Phil’
A fan favorite, especially in his native state of California, Mickelson was cheered on with shouts of “Come on, Phil” as he made the long walk through the shops and putting- green area of the California resort en route to the first tee.
From there, the day began to improve slightly for Mickelson. However, he was still unable to make key putts.
After a bogey on the par-4 fourth hole, he failed to convert another birdie putt from inside five feet on the sixth. The ball didn’t touch the hole as it rolled about three feet past.
Mickelson finished the round facing a birdie putt from about 20 feet. As it rolled toward the center of the ninth hole, it stopped about an inch short, producing another par.