Phil Mickelson is clubhouse leader when U.S. Open suspends play

Jim Mackay, Phil Mickelson
Phil Mickelson talks strategy with caddie Jim Mackay on the ninth hole at Merion Golf Club during the first round of the U.S. Open on Thursday.
(Scott Halleran / Getty Images)

Get ready for the new rage in sports.

Got a big game coming up? A national championship? An international competition?

A few days beforehand, jump on a plane and fly cross-country. Wait awhile, then fly back. That’s what Phil Mickelson did, and it worked wonders for his golf.

Mickelson finished three under par for the first round at the U.S. Open, a stroke behind Luke Donald on a day when weather caused two significant delays and much of the field could not finish 18 holes before darkness fell at Merion Golf Club.


With so much talk of a soft, wet course being vulnerable to low scores, the Ardmore, Pa., club bit back, testing players with its tight confines and deceptive greens.

Barely more than a dozen players were under par at day’s end, with the likes of Adam Scott, Webb Simpson, Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood giving chase to the leaders.

Tiger Woods, who looked shaky from the start and appeared to hurt his left arm while hitting out of the rough in the early going, was five strokes back at 2-over through 10 holes. Afterward, he talked about a rainy season on the PGA Tour.

“We’ve had a lot of bad weather this year and this is the way it’s been,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of holes to play tomorrow. And hopefully I can play a little better than I did today.”


Mickelson started early and was safe in the clubhouse by late afternoon. His performance was especially surprising given a history of struggling early in majors. There was also the fact that he chose to fly back to California for his daughter’s eighth-grade graduation just before the tournament.

Of course, Mickelson flying coast-to-coast-to-coast isn’t like most of us squeezing into the middle seat in economy class. His private jet allowed considerably more room to stretch out.

The five-time U.S. Open runner-up arrived in Pennsylvania just hours before his 7:11 a.m. tee time.

After finishing his round, he said the trip actually helped, giving him a chance to practice in sunny weather while everyone else sneaked in a few holes between downpours at Merion. Still, around the ninth hole, he told his caddie that he had hit a wall.

It took some fortitude to push through a tough day.

“We were having a hard time scoring low here,” he said of Merion. “It’s so demanding. It’s such a great track. It’s one of the best I’ve seen at the U.S. Open.”

Dozens of players were scheduled to resume first-round play at 7:15 a.m. Friday. That included Donald, who finished 13 holes on Thursday.

With the forecast suggesting drier weather, officials were hoping to reach the cut before Saturday.



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