Saturday, March 8, 2014
The Associated Press
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Phil Mickelson hits on the fifth hole during the first round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Merion Golf Club, Thursday, June 13, 2013, in Ardmore, Pa. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
Martin Laird, left, of Scotland, walks near the fifth hole during the first round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Merion Golf Club on Thursday in Ardmore, Pa. The course is drenched from a week of rain.
The Associated Press
Former Masters champion Charl Schwartzel, Tim Clark, Rickie Fowler, Jason Day and Jerry Kelly were the only others who at least matched par at 70. Clark and Kelly were at 2 under deep in their rounds until running into trouble, which isn't hard to do in the U.S. Open, especially at Merion. Clark took a double bogey-bogey stretch in the middle of his back nine. Kelly was one shot behind Mickelson until a double bogey on the 18th hole.
"It's a lot tougher than they say it is," Schwartzel said.
It doesn't take much — just two holes for Sergio Garcia, who found Merion far more daunting than the few wisecracks from the gallery. Garcia received mostly warm applause, with some barely audible boos from the grandstand when he started his round on No. 11. It was his first time competing in America since his public spat with Woods took a bad turn when he jokingly said he would have Woods over for dinner during the U.S. Open and serve fried chicken.
"There were a couple here and there," Garcia said about some jeers. "But I felt the people were very nice for the whole day. I think that almost all of them were behind me and that was nice to see."
They saw him hit his tee shot out of bounds on No. 14 right before the first rain delay, leading to double bogey. Then, he hooked his next shot out of bounds and hit a bunker shot over the green on his way to a quadruple-bogey 8 at No. 15. Despite being 6-over on those two holes, he rallied for a 73.
Mickelson, meanwhile, looked as though he could play this golf course in his sleep. And he nearly did.
With two holes remaining, he hit 5-iron into 30 feet on the 237-yard ninth hole and told caddie Jim "Bones" Mackay that he was starting to hit the ball. Despite the constant smiling, Mickelson is intense inside the ropes, and Mackay told him to stop thinking about his swing, his next shot, the course or anything else related to golf during the walk to the green. Lefty rolled in the right-to-left breaking putt for another birdie.
"Being able to tune in and tune out was kind of nice the last hole or two," Mickelson said. "It's been a long day."
The only other time Mickelson opened with a 67 in the U.S. Open was in 1999 at Pinehurst No. 2, and his oldest daughter was part of that story, too. Mickelson carried a pager with him that week because his wife was due with their first child. He finished one shot behind when the late Payne Stewart holed a 15-foot par putt on the last hole, and Amanda was born the next day.
Mickelson was always going to be home before the U.S. Open because Amanda, who turns 14 next week, was chosen to be a featured speaker at her graduation. He left Merion on Monday, a day earlier than planned, when more heavy rain washed out most of the practice round. Besides, Mickelson felt like he knew the course well enough from his scouting trip last week.
"She told me that it's fine. 'Stay, it's the U.S. Open. I know how much you care about it.' And I told her that I want to be there," Mickelson said. "I don't want to miss her speech. I don't want to miss her graduation. She spent nine years at that school. And she's worked very hard and I'm very proud of her."
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