Golf

Mickelson withdraws after 79

FOXSports.com's Robert Lusetich recaps an eventful Day 1 from the Memorial.
FOXSports.com's Robert Lusetich recaps an eventful Day 1 from the Memorial.
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Robert Lusetich

After more than 20 years of covering everything from election campaigns to the Olympic Games, Robert Lusetich turned his focus to writing about his first love: golf. He is author of Unplayable: An Inside Account of Tiger's Most Tumultuous Season. Follow him on Twitter.

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DUBLIN, Ohio

Phil Mickelson may be the people’s champion but he broke a cardinal rule in golf on Thursday.

He quit.

He played like crap and walked out after just one round on a man who deserves better, Memorial tournament host Jack Nicklaus.

And he deprived his many fans in Ohio.

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Mickelson shot 79 — his worst score on the PGA Tour since 2003 — in Thursday's first round then immediately announced his withdrawal and boarded his jet to fly back to California, where he plans on celebrating the 40th birthday of his wife, Amy.

It's hard to criticize a man for wanting to be with his wife on a seminal birthday, but the question then becomes: why even enter the tournament?

Mickelson admitted that he was fried after playing three weeks in a row, then going to Italy and Paris with his wife last week as part of his wife's birthday celebrations.

"Then I came back and had a Tuesday (corporate) outing in Long Island, the (Memorial) pro-am, and I think mentally I'm a little bit fatigued," he said.

"I'm hitting it so poorly that I think that for me, I have to look at what's best for me to play in the US Open, and I'm going to take the next few days to kind of rest up.

"I've got to be more big picture oriented and think about the Open and what's best to get my best golf out there, and I need the next few days to rest up a bit."

However, he's not resting up completely because he admitted that he has another corporate outing scheduled for Monday.

After that he might, he said, fly up to Olympic Club in San Francisco, which hosts the US Open in two weeks’ time.

"I haven’t had a chance to get out there yet," he said.

DUSTIN JOHNSON AND PAULINA GRETZKY

TROPHY WAGs

For some golfers, the biggest prizes aren't their tournament wins but their wives and girlfriends.

"I know it’s a course that's very strategic; that you have a lot of options off the tee and you have to have a solid game plan heading in, and I haven't had as much time there as I’d like."

Be sure, Mickelson wasn't the only player to withdraw after a high score on Thursday.

Sang-Moon Bae (79), Tom Gillis (81) and Boo Weekley (82) all pulled out, but Gillis and Weekley both are carrying injuries. Former Masters champion Mike Weir, also a lefty, shot an 83 Thursday, but is returning for his second round.

It is not uncommon for players to pull out after a bad opening round — the PGA Tour doesn’t even require players to give reasons for WD’ing after a round — but the point is that they’re not Phil Mickelson.

Mickelson’s perhaps the most popular player in the game and needs to set a better example.

He committed to the tournament and he should have fulfilled his commitment.

Of course, the Golden Bear wasn’t going to make a scene about Mickelson quitting.

He's too classy for that.

"We're sorry that Phil withdrew," Nicklaus said. "He's always a great addition to our field and we look forward to seeing him again next year."

Hopefully, he stays for at least two days.

Tagged: Phil Mickelson

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