Phil (70) praises Cherry Hills: 'Extremely fun to play'


Phil Mickelson won the 1990 U.S. Amateur at Cherry Hills. (Getty)

CHERRY HILLS VILLAGE, Colo. – As a short-game maestro, Phil Mickelson appreciated the challenge Cherry Hills presented Thursday at the BMW Championship.

Mickelson, who is three shots off the lead after opening with an even-par 70, won the U.S. Amateur here in 1990. The lob wedge he used so masterfully to win that event is on display in the Hall of Honor in Cherry Hills’ clubhouse. He probably wishes he could use it this week. The square grooves, no longer within the rules, would be a large help this week with Cherry Hills’ thick rough and firm greens.

“Since however many years ago we changed the groove rule, it is chipping without spin, it's very hard to get it up-and-down, because you just can't stop it,” Mickelson said. “You can't hit it high enough, or soft enough, or get enough spin on it, to get the ball stopped, unless it's just straight uphill.”

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Mickelson is 56th in FedEx Cup points and likely needs a finish of fourth or better to advance to the Tour Championship next week. He’s inspired at Cherry Hills.

“It's really fun,” Mickelson said. “What I really like about Cherry Hills is that the easy holes are easy. You can make birdies on the reachable holes. They have some of the hardest holes anywhere. The fifth hole is one of the hardest par 4s you'll ever see. The 8th hole is like a 285-yard par 3. It's a long beast of a hole.

“There are some really difficult pars, and there are some really good birdie opportunities. From a player's standpoint, it's extremely fun to play.”