Mickelson, Watson find rough start at US open

Phil Mickelson lost a ball in the trees on his first swing

Thursday, hit a spectator on another and spent more time in the

rough than the fairway.

Playing partner Bubba Watson looked even more lost at The

Olympic Club, nearly shooting the 80 he feared he might put up

early in the week.

Such lack of precision cost both dearly in the first round of

the U.S. Open. Five-time Open runner-up Mickelson opened with a

6-over 76, and Masters champion Watson had a 78.

It was a stark contrast to the way the third member of the

group, Tiger Woods, methodically moved from Point A to Point B in

shooting a 69 on the tight, twisting Lake Course.

”It beat me up,” Masters champ Watson lamented. ”It’s winning

by eight right now.”

Mickelson bogeyed the first three holes.

”I didn’t play well, obviously,” Mickelson said. ”You could

see that.”

It started with his first swing, when he hit 3-wood on No. 9 –

his opening hole because of Olympic’s logistics. He snap-hooked it

right and it quickly disappeared into the trees.

Fans gathered around one cypress and photographers took endless

photos of a ball sitting in the tree like a bird’s egg. But there

was no way to identify it, or even determine if it was Mickelson’s

ball.

For all anyone knew, the ball could have been there since 1998,

the last time the U.S. Open was played at Olympic.

Mickelson abandoned his search after 5 minutes and went back to

the tee.

Joe Ogilvie was already waiting to tee off because of the

delay.

”Not a good way to start the tournament,” Ogilvie said. ”I’m

just glad the USGA official had the foresight not to say, `Now

playing his third shot ….”’

Mickelson salvaged bogey, but then couldn’t recover.

”I just let it continue,” said Mickelson, who hit eight of 18

greens in regulation and seven of 14 fairways. ”Unfortunately, I

wasn’t able to get it stopped.”

Mickelson birdied the par-3 13th -his fifth hole – but that was

it. His three-putt from 10 feet on No. 4 started another

bogey-bogey run.

”I fought hard for a while there trying to keep it a few

over,” Mickelson said. ”Three-putting (No.) 4 really hurt because

I probably tried to get a little aggressive. I felt like I needed

one birdie there. But it was a tough day when you play the way I

did.”

Watson acknowledged before the tournament that he wasn’t sure

about Olympic’s setup, fearing it would make him look silly and

shoot 80.

He wasn’t far off at 78.

He hit only five fairways and eight greens, and made seven

bogeys and a double. His only birdie came on the short par-5

17th.

He missed the fairway on his first drive, couldn’t advance it

far and took bogey. He followed with a bogey at No. 11 after

another bad swing.

But Olympic’s closing stretch did him in Thursday, including a

double-bogey 6 on No. 18 after his club twisted in the rough on a

chip.

”I just couldn’t get anything going.” Watson said. ”Never got

any rhythm. Everything was just a little off.”

At least Watson was crowd-pleasing with the pink driver he

regularly pulled while the others went with irons, 3-woods or

hybrids off the tee.

Watson even hit driver again on his second shot on the monster,

660-yard par-5 16th. But his sand wedge approach from the rough

rolled off the green, resulting in another bogey.

”I wasn’t going for the green. I was just trying to get it

somewhere down there,” Watson said about his second shot with the

driver. ”That pin is impossible to get at.”

Rough was easy to find.

Lefty went right again on No. 14 into the gallery. When he got

to his ball, he asked if he hit anyone and handed a souvenir ball

from his bag to the spectator, prompting another fan to yell,

”Phil, can you hit me next?”

A third fan chirped in.

”Just don’t stand in the fairway (if you want to get hit),” he

said.

It was that kind of a day when, with the fog lifting and the

course play harder, even the fans were tough on the players.

Asked if this was the toughest U.S. Open course, Mickelson

hedged.

”If you have great control of your ball flight, of your game,

you can shoot a number around par and under par,” Mickelson said.

”But if you play like I did and you start missing it off the tee

and three-putting, you’re going to shoot a high number like I

did.”

At least he was in good company with Watson, who acknowledged

his game plan of bombing it with his driver – he averaged a

whopping 337.5 yards off the tee Thursday – didn’t pan out.

Now both find themselves scrambling in a different way

Friday.

”I can’t really think about the lead or anything,” Mickelson

said. ”I’ve just got to make the cut right now, and to do that, I

got to shoot something under par.”