PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – After last year’s U.S. Open debacle at Shinnecock Hills, where Phil Mickelson received a two-stroke penalty for purposely hitting a moving ball on a green, the five-time major winner had been conspicuously quiet so far this week on the subject of Pebble Beach’s course setup.
That changed after his third-round 75.
Despite yet again playing himself out of a shot at the only major title that has eluded him during his hall-of-fame career, Mickelson couldn’t have been more complimentary of the USGA on Saturday.
“I've got to hand it to the USGA for doing a great setup. It's the best I've ever seen. And it's identifying the best players. It's making the players the story,” Mickelson said. “I think the biggest thing was pin placements, instead of putting them right on the edges, they were in good spots, rewarding great shots. I can't say enough great things about how this week has gone so far. And I'm appreciative to the effort they've put in and for the opportunity that I had this week.”
It was a refreshing about-face for Mickelson, who hasn’t been shy about his disdain for typical U.S. Open course setups, bashing the USGA as recently as a couple of weeks ago.
“I just think that you've got to give credit when they do a good job like this. They've done a great job,” he added. “There have been many times where one or two yards difference in hole location would have made a world of difference, given the conditions being so tough. And this week they've done a good job in doing that.”
After entering Moving Day at 1 under and in position to make a weekend charge, Mickelson could only muster one birdie on his front nine before he struggling coming home, culminating his round with triple-bogey 8 on the 18th hole.
“I'll come out tomorrow and play as well as I can. But today was the day I needed to go low. I played well enough to do it. I had many opportunities. Didn't putt well. Didn't get them to go in. I left them short the whole time. And then I finished poorly,” he said. “For the most part I really enjoyed this week. I've had a lot of fun testing my game, testing myself mentally, my physical game. And it's been a fun challenge.”