BETHESDA, Md. – After a first round at the U.S. Open that Phil Mickelson thought easily could’ve been in the 80s, he rebounded on Friday with a second-round 69 to hang around the periphery of the Open class photo.
On Saturday, though, Mickelson’s chances to win his first Open were dead and gone after a third round of 6-over 77 moved him well off the commanding lead of Rory McIlroy. A puzzling 77, at that, which was played in complete contrast.
Turning at 1 under, Mickelson felt good about his opening nine, even though he missed a good birdie chance at the par-5 9th.
“I felt pretty good on the front nine. I hit a lot of good tee shots and thought I could get it going. I let a couple of birdie opportunities slide, especially on 9,” he said. “That was disappointing because I thought it was a good opportunity.”
But Mickelson’s round began a quick downhill slide as he hit his tee shot at the par-3 10th.
“I felt like I could get something going on the back nine,” he said. “Unfortunately, I can’t believe I hit an 8-iron over the green at 10 which is a really tough spot to get up-and-down.”
A bogey there was followed by bogeys on Nos. 13 and 15, which were then compounded by back-to-back double bogeys on 16 and 17. Damage done, Phil parred the last, this year’s Open hopes dashed.
“It was a rough back nine. Some things kind of fell apart there at the end,” he said.
Still, he praised the course setup and its challenge to players.
“The course is very fair. It can lead to low scores if you’re playing well and high scores if you’re not. You really can’t ask for anything more.”