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Mickelson opens in 71, rips restoration of AAC course

JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – For much of the week, the verdict on Atlanta Athletic Club as a course and how it was set up for this PGA Championship had pretty much drawn a consensus. It was long, but not as long as on the card. It was tough, but fair. It seemed to draw rave reviews.

Then Phil Mickelson had a crack at it. He shot 1-over 71 in the first round on Thursday, then proceeded to rip into Rees Jones’ restoration work of the Georgia club.

First, though, he offered a compliment to how the PGA of America set up the course.

“It’s totally different. It’s great for the PGA. It’s terrific. It’s in great shape. It’s difficult. It’s challenging. There’s some really hard holes, and there’s some birdie holes. And I think it’s a great site for the PGA,” he said.

Then came the “yeah, but” moment where Mickelson laid into Jones for making the course nearly unplayable for the regulars of AAC.

“But I also think if you look at the four par 3s here, it’s a perfect example of how modern architecture is killing the game, because these holes are unplayable for the member,” he said.

Mickelson extrapolated the design philosophy of Jones out to say it was borderline cancerous to the amateur golf world.

“It’s a good reason why, in my opinion, this is a great example again of how modern architecture is killing the participation of the sport because the average guy just can’t play it,” he said.

The average guy, though, does not get a crack at it in a major championship. Mickelson gets at least two, and he hopes to do better in the afternoon on Friday.

He said, “I know I’m playing well enough, and I’m going to get tomorrow’s round and get back in it, but today was not what I wanted. Starting on the first hole I spotted the field two shots right at the get-go.”