Mickelson off to uneven start after dinging at U.S. Open

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Phil Mickelson plays his shot from the 12th tee during the first round of the U.S. Open Golf Championship, Thursday, June 17, 2021, at Torrey Pines Golf Course in San Diego. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Phil Mickelson backed off his shot and asked for quiet after a phone went off in the gallery. Exasperated, he stepped back a second time when it happened again.

A third ding and Lefty couldn’t take it anymore.

“Seriously? Can we get someone to help him?” he said.

Finally able to hit in silence, Mickelson sent the shot into the bushes way left, leading to a bogey.

“I don’t understand why you just can’t turn that little button on the side into silent,” he said.

Inconsiderate fans weren’t Mickelson’s only problem Thursday at beastly Torrey Pines.

Unable to get many good looks at birdie, Mickelson had three bogeys in his first six holes and two more late to shoot a 4-over 75 in the opening round. That leaves him eight shots behind early leader Russell Henley in his bid to win his first U.S. Open and complete the career grand slam.

“I was fighting hard throughout the round,” Mickelson said. “I wasn’t really getting anything going and I fought really hard, and then to let two bogeys slide on 6 and 7 when I really shouldn’t have.”

Mickelson made history last month by winning the PGA Championship to become the oldest player to win a major.

He returned to his hometown, celebrated his 51st birthday Wednesday and set off to chase a bit more history. Win at Torrey Pines and Mickelson would become the sixth player to win the career grand slam and erase some demons after coming agonizingly close to winning the U.S. Open so many times.

HIs bid got off to a rough start.

A heavy marine layer blanketed the bluffs at Torrey Pines early Thursday morning, delaying the first round by 90 minutes.

Once the sun came out, Mickelson hit a solid drive on his first hole of the day, the par-4 10th, but pushed his second shot into a greenside bunker. He followed with a solid bunker shot off a down slope to 13 feet, but his par putt horseshoed around the hole and out.

Then, dinging.

The 613-yard 13th hole has a steep drop on the second shot before rising up to the green, so Mickelson took out a fairway wood in an attempt to get in in the bunkers short right. After backing off three times, he pushed his second shot way left into the bushes.

Mickelson’s fourth shot, after a drop, hit the flagstick and caromed into the deep rough. He chopped it out and managed to make a 6-foot par putt, saving a hard-fought bogey.

“I hammered it,” he said. ”But it was going to be 40 feet; it was going to be way past, too. It was coming in really hot. It’s not like it was going to be close. So the fact that I made 6 there, that’s all I was trying to do after taking a drop.”

A wild drive into the trees and gnarled rough left of the 15th fairway forced him to lay up, leading to another bogey that put him 3 over after six holes.

Then things started to come together — for a while.

Mickelson made a 9-foot birdie putt on the par-4 17th and ran off a string of six straight pars, looking to be in decent shape at 2 under.

Then he came up short of the 519-yard, par-4 sixth hole and couldn’t get up and down for par. He followed with a three-putt bogey on the par-4 seventh.

“You probably saw the disappointment there,” he said. “Look, it’s part of this tournament and I was able to go without any doubles. I just didn’t make enough birdies to offset it.”

Mickelson gets another crack at Torrey Pines on Friday in the second round.

He’s hoping for more birdies — and less dings.

___

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