Phil Mickelson four-putted and shot a 78. Then talked from the parking lot.
BROOKLINE, Mass. — Both to the course and to the crowd, he was complimentary. In himself, he was disappointed. He was looking forward to Friday.
But Phil Mickelson believed he had been ready.
And then he drove away.
In his first tournament on his home soil in nearly five months, in his second event of any kind in just under the same stretch, and one week after his appearance with the controversial, Saudi-backed LIV Golf Invitational Series — whom his comments on led him to a self-appointed four-month exile from any professional golf — Mickelson made more double bogeys (two) than birdies (one) and shot an eight-over 78 during Thursday’s first round of the U.S. Open. He’s 12 strokes behind leader Adam Hadwin. Friday will very likely be his last day at The Country Club, outside of shooting one of his best-ever rounds, in a tournament he’s infamously never won.
But in a one-minute, 26-second interview with four reporters in the players parking lot — he did not have a formal press conference — Mickelson was asked if he felt he was prepared enough following the layoff. He answered in three words.
“Yeah, I did.”
He faulted his putter, and he was right to do so. If there were rust, it would also certainly crop up here. Among the 156 players, Mickelson was 142nd in Strokes Gained: Putting, at -2.18. He took 32 putts total, which tied him for 118th in the field. Four of those putts came from 12 feet away on the par-3 6th.
But Mickelson was flattering toward TCC, whose greens are both slopey and small; they’re the second-smallest in major championship history.
“I really enjoyed the test,” Mickelson said. “I think it’s just a spectacular golf course, set up terrifically and I really struggled with the putter first few holes, just like I did last week. I’ll get in the groove. but I love this setup and I’m looking forward to having another chance at the golf course because I’m playing better than I’m scoring and I enjoy another opportunity to take on this course.”
Outside of his play, perhaps one of the the other biggest questions this week was what the reception would be here. Boston loves its sports, knows its sports, and its fans aren’t afraid to share, shall we say, thoughts. But the reception was warm. A police officer assigned to Mickelson said on the 18th hole that he heard nothing strange. On 18, the six-time major champion was cheered after a bogey five. He was even sung to.
Mickelson turned 52 on Thursday.
“Yeah, loved it,” Mickelson said of the fans. “People here in Boston have always created a great environment for sporting events, and they’ve been amazing for golf tournaments. Today was no different.”
Any happy birthdays out there?
“Oh yeah, yeah,” he said. “It was cool.”
Was he concerned he may not get a good reception?
“No, people here have always been great,” he said.
And then one of his handlers said it was time for him to go. On Friday, he tees off at 8:02 a.m.
“Thanks, guys,” he said. And he was gone.