PINEHURST, N.C. – Despite a pair of late bogeys, Phil Mickelson’s quest for the career grand slam is off to a solid start.
Mickelson carded an even-par 70 Thursday in the first round of the U.S. Open, a tournament in which he has been a runner-up a record six times. When he completed play early Thursday afternoon, that effort placed him two shots behind a group of players at 2 under, including Kevin Na and Graeme McDowell.
"It's a good start. I didn't hurt myself any," Mickelson said. "The one club that's hurting me is the putter. So I've got to get that turned around the next couple of days."
While still in position to contend, Mickelson appeared headed for an even better score for much of his opening round.
Beginning his day on the back nine, Mickelson started in style with a birdie on the par-5 10th. He added another at No. 14 before suffering his first setback of the day on the par-3 15th hole, when his chip bounded away from the hole and over the green.
After making the turn in 1-under 34, Mickelson birdied the fifth hole after reaching the par-5 green in two, and he briefly held a share of the lead as a result. From there, though, he struggled somewhat to close out his round, with a three-putt bogey on No. 6 followed by a dropped shot on No. 8.
His round included nine of 14 fairways hit, and Mickelson reached 13 of the 18 greens in regulation at Pinehurst No. 2.
"I had a chance to get 3, 4, 5-under today had I made some makeable opportunities," he said. "But I didn't throw anything away on some of the short ones."
Mickelson is no stranger to being in the mix after the opening round at the season's second major: in each of his six runner-up finishes, the 43-year-old has opened with a round of even-par or better. He started with a 3-under 67 at Pinehurst en route to a second-place showing at the 1999 U.S. Open, while he shot a 1-under 69 in the opening round here in 2005 before ultimately tying for 33rd.
"This golf course is a course where I get a similar feeling that I get at Augusta, where I don't have to be perfect. I can miss shots," he said. "I can miss greens and still get up and down. I always have a chance."