ARDMORE, Pa. – “We're talking about practice, man. We're not talking about the game. We're talking about practice ...'
Those were the words of Philadelphia hoopster Allen Iverson years ago, but Phil Mickelson may be “The Answer” at this week’s U.S. Open, already turning the City of Brotherly Love into his own version of Phil-adelphia.
Puns aside, Mickelson arrived in town at 4:15 a.m. Thursday morning on a private flight after spending the last few days in San Diego, practicing and attending his oldest daughter’s eighth-grade graduation. Amidst criticism for skipping practice rounds for the year’s second major championship, he bogeyed his first hole of the day before playing the rest of the round flawlessly, carding four birdies to shoot 3-under 67 and take the early lead.
“When I was here for a few days the week before, I was able to get all the work done that I needed,” Mickelson explained. “I didn’t need any course prep. I knew how it was going to play with four different winds. I knew what clubs I was going to hit off the tees. … Being able to be in great weather and get my game sharp was advantageous.”
After starting on the 11th hole, Mickelson’s birdie run began with one on the par-3 13th hole before he added three more on Nos. 1, 7 and 9.
It wasn’t all red circles, though. As is customary for contenders at the U.S. Open, Mickelson spent much of his opening round – which was delayed three hours and 34 minutes because of dangerous weather conditions – grinding out pars. He hit 11 of 18 fairways, 14 of 18 greens in regulation and needed 29 total putts.
Mickelson owns four career major championship titles, but has famously never won this tournament. He has finished second a record five times.