There was nothing fun about Day 1 of the US Open for Phil Mickelson. By the time he got to the ninth tee box, he had not hit a fairway. "I'm so sick of this," he said as he bent over in disgust. Mickelson found no reason to enjoy this beast of a course any more than when he left it 14 years ago.
In 2006, Mickelson held a one-shot lead heading to the 18th hole, but hit an errant driver that triggered a chain of events that left Australian Geoff Ogilvy holding the trophy. On Thursday when he blocked his first tee shot into the left rough, analyst Nick Faldo was blunt: "There it is, memories of the 18th right there.
the same shot." He made birdie there and followed with another birdie after another missed fairway on No. 2. All that scrambling also stirred some memories. Largely forgotten about Mickelson's fourth round from 2006 was that he hit only two fairways that day, too.
But, as he recounted last week, "It was the best short-game week of my career. I need to strike it better." He didn't.
He chose driver again on the 18th at Winged Foot.
He blocked it to the left again. Made bogey instead of double bogey this time.
But instead of walking off in second place, the way he did in 2006, he headed to the clubhouse Thursday in 142nd, tied for second-to-last at the US Open. "I drove it poorly, and I putted poorly," he said in offering a succinct summary of an awful day.
He found a grand total of two fairways over a five-hour slog through the thick grass, sand and greens that he couldn't figure out. He three-putted twice over the final four holes - including once from inside of 9 feet - and finished at 9-over 79.
"I'm 9 over," Mickelson said in discussing his plans for Friday. "I'll play as hard as I can and enjoy the round." Justin Thomas, who led the way with six birdies and only one bogey from a bad lie in the bunker, finishing with a 25-foot birdie putt that he barely touched for a 5-under 65, had a better day.
It was the lowest score in a US Open at Winged Foot, which is hosting the Open for the sixth time dating to 1929. And it was worth only a one-shot lead over Patrick Reed, Thomas Pieters of Belgium and Matthew Wolff, the 21-year-old Californian making his US Open debut.
"Yeah, 65 is fun no matter where you play, especially at Winged Foot," Thomas said. "I was in a really good frame of mind, and I was focused. I just was sticking to my routine and playing every shot, as opposed to getting ahead of myself.
It's one of those rounds where ... next thing you know, you make the putt on 18, you're done for the day." Thomas played with Tiger Woods and PGA champion Collin Morikawa, who couldn't get done fast enough.
Woods was in five bunkers through five holes and then appeared to steady himself with three straight birdies around the turn to get under par, but only briefly. He made three bogeys coming in, still had a chance to post a reasonable score and then let it get away.
From short of the steep shelf fronting the 18th green, he flubbed a flop shot, pitched the next one about 8 feet beyond the pin and missed the putt to take double bogey for a 73. "I did not finish off the round like I needed to," Woods said, an expression he uttered five more times out of the six questions he faced after his round.
Morikawa, who shot 40 on the back nine for a 76, was not very satisfied with his performance either. Rory McIlroy opened with a 67 and tried to contain his disappointment it wasn't lower. Patrick Reed and Will Zalatoris made a hole-in-one on No.
7, and Zalatoris somehow missed another ace on No. 13. Spanish amateur Eduard Rousand holed out for eagle from the first fairway with his second shot in his U.S. Open debut. Louis Oosthuizen holed out for eagle on second fairway.