SAN DIEGO — Phil Mickelson‘s quest to complete the career Grand Slam was not aided Thursday by the numerous instances in which he was distracted by spectators who did not switch their cell phone cameras off during the first round of the U.S. Open.
Mickelson was visibly and audibly irritated during one instance on the 13th hole — his fourth — in which he three times backed off a shot from just off the fairway to ask that a cell camera be switched off.
The third time resulted in a police officer being summoned, and while Mickelson did not use it as an excuse, he pushed his approach well left into a bush and had to take a penalty stroke.
Mickelson, who turned 51 on Wednesday, managed just one birdie in a round of 4-over-par 75 that left him eight shots back of clubhouse leader Russell Henley.
“It’s part of professional golf,” Mickelson said. “You have to learn to deal with it. I don’t understand why you just can’t turn that little button on the side into silent. I probably didn’t deal with it internally as well as I could have or as well as I need to. It’s part of playing the game out here at this level. Certainly I didn’t do the best job of dealing with it.
“It did it the next three or four shots thereafter too, so it’s not like that’s the first time, it’s just that you had to ask three times. Again, it’s part of the game. It’s part of professional golf. You have to be able to let that go and not let it get to you and be able to kind of compose yourself and regather your thoughts and so forth, but they certainly didn’t do me any favors, either.”
The par-5 hole — which Mickelson has criticized in the past for the tee that was added, calling it a “waste of money” — epitomized his day. He hit a good drive and was in the first cut of rough, then tried to blast his 2-wood into a greenside bunker but pushed it into a bush. From there, he took a penalty drop, had to navigate an overhanging tree and hit his pitch onto the green, where it hit the flagstick and bounced off the green. From there, he chipped on and settled for a bogey 6.
The reigning PGA Championship winner, who became the oldest major champion last month at Kiawah Island, South Carolina, had hopes of transferring that confidence to Torrey Pines in his hometown.
Mickelson, who has six runner-up finishes in major championships, spent time last week practicing at the course where he won three times prior to an extensive renovation in 2001.
But Mickelson’s only birdie of the round came at the 17th hole, where he knocked his approach to 6 feet. He three-putted the 18th for a par, and then made a series of solid pars before bogeys at the sixth and seventh holes dropped him to 4 over par.
“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, like they weren’t that hard of pars — you probably saw the disappointment there.
“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. Like I said, I’m hitting enough fairways to give myself chances, and I’m optimistic that I’ll put together a good round tomorrow.”