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Putting frustrates Mickelson in opening 75

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PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – While many of the game’s best got off to a quick start Thursday morning at The Players Championship, Phil Mickelson went in the opposite direction.

Mickelson struggled to a 3-over 75 in the opening round, an effort that left him 10 shots off the pace and in danger of missing the cut. After the round, he struggled to explain his inability to capitalize on the prime scoring conditions that greeted the morning wave.

“I don’t know. I don’t feel like any parts of the game are bad,” Mickelson said. “I just have a hard time seeing the ball go in the hole and getting it to go in the hole.”

After an inconsistent week at Quail Hollow, Mickelson failed to get comfortable on the greens at TPC Sawgrass. He opened with a three-putt bogey on No. 10, including a miss from inside 3 feet, and also missed birdie putts of less than 8 feet at Nos. 16 and 17.

Mickelson’s lone birdie came at the fourth hole, and his four bogeys included one at the par-3 eighth, where he took an unplayable lie after his tee shot buried under the lip of a greenside bunker. While he reached 13 of 18 greens in regulation, Mickelson took 33 putts.

“I was playing well and hit a lot of greens, but it was frustrating because I was over par,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s just the greens or what, but I’m not really sure what it is yet.”

Mickelson faces an afternoon tee time Friday, when the course is expected to play more difficult with a freshening wind. With an uphill battle ahead to make the weekend, the former Players champion was not exactly brimming with confidence after the round.

“(I’ll) come out and try to play as hard as I can and see how low I can shoot,” he said. “It’s just not quite clicking right now.”