IRVING, Texas – There is no room for excuses on the scorecard. No special section in which a golfer can provide a written explanation for how the final result didn’t directly correlate to the way he played. No space for articulating why the score wasn’t any better.
If there were, Phil Mickelson could grab that little pencil and produce an entire essay clarifying exactly why his overall total during the opening round of the Byron Nelson Championship should have – or at least could have – been better.
He could explain how he’s playing the third of three consecutive weeks on the PGA Tour, the first two coming at brutally difficult, mentally taxing golf courses in Quail Hollow and TPC-Sawgrass. He could point out his induction into the World Golf Hall of Fame last week, how the pomp and circumstance and gravity of the affair sapped some of the energy necessary for competing at the highest level.
He could. But he wouldn’t.
“It's not that I am tired,” Mickelson said after an opening-round even-par 70 that left him five strokes off the lead. “I have not been able to get the score that I feel I should be getting. I'm frustrated that I'm letting shots slide here or there and not capitalizing on some birdie opportunities.”
His opening round included two birdies, two bogeys and a bevy of disappointing pars, the result of a cringe-worthy 33 total putts in the round.
“There were a lot of birdies out there,” he continued. “I’m just frustrated with myself, because I feel like I’m turning a lot of 65s and 66s into 70s the last three weeks. Today was a good example. I had opportunity after opportunity to get the round going, then I bogey the last to shoot even. I’m frustrated with myself, because the course was there for the taking.”
To his point, it’s been a common refrain during this recent run of appearances.
In nine rounds played during the past three weeks, Mickelson owns just one sub-70 score – a third-round 68 at the Wells Fargo Championship – and has an overall scoring average of 70.78. That’s equated to a T-26 and T-25 in his previous two starts, but the mercurial left-hander is hoping for greater success here in the Lone Star State.
Mickelson returned to this tournament for the first time in a half-decade. Though he won the title in 1996, lost in a playoff in 2000 and finished third in his last venture in 2007, he doesn’t own a particularly strong results table here – at least in comparison with his work at other venues – with just four total top-10 results in 13 career appearances.
“It's a challenging course,” he said of TPC-Four Seasons. “It's hard to get the shots 5-6 feet from the hole, but it's easy to get them 15-20 feet from the hole, and I had a number of those putts that I struggled getting in the hole. And [Friday] I don't see myself hitting my iron shots any better, but I need to capitalize on the opportunities that I give myself.”
Simple math shows that Mickelson hit 14 greens in regulation – and made only two of those putts.
“Really good opportunity to take advantage of the course,” he lamented, “and I just didn't.”
Not that Phil isn’t enjoying his time here in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Wednesday night, he sat in the front row at the Ballpark in Arlington, witnessing a Texas Rangers victory over the Oakland A’s. Immediately after his round on Thursday, he headed right back to catch a matinee between those same two teams.
Based on his last three weeks, there’s no doubt Mickelson can appreciate the day-in, day-out grind of life on the baseball diamond. He can likely relate to it being a game of inches, how the narrowest of margins can be the difference between success and mediocrity – or mediocrity and failure.
There is no room for excuses or explanations in the boxscore, much like on a scorecard in golf. That doesn’t mean the numbers always tell the story, though. Mickelson knows all about that concept.