For a guy who has struggled for much of his career in links-style golf, you wouldn’t think Phil Mickelson would have too much to complain about after Thursday’s opening round at the Open Championship.
The winner of last week’s Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open, Mickelson shot a solid two-under-par round of 69, leaving him in good position just three strokes back of Zach Johnson, who at five-under is the leader as of this writing.
Still, Mickelson seemed to take some issue with the course setup that the Royal And Ancient put in place at Muirfield. “I got really lucky (tee time) because I think the R&A was really worried about the scores going too low and there are some really funky pin placements,” Mickelson said.
“They used some funny spots and about one third of every green has just died it’s so brown. I hit two perfect shots on 18, left it in the exact spot I wanted to leave it and I just kind of lagged it still went way by. I got really lucky to play early because I at least had a fighting chance.”
On the par-4 18th, Mickelson hit his approach to about 8-10 feet. He knew his birdie putt was going to be quick, but caught the lip and ran it about six feet past, then missed the comeback attempt as well. Despite the shaky finish, Mickelson knows he’s in a good position at a difficult course.
“I don’t see anyone in the afternoon with a realistic chance (shooting low). It’s a little overdone. I feel bad for these guys who have to go out and play it. There is a distinct disadvantage. Luck is always a factor but it this shouldn’t have been a factor. The weather didn’t come here. It’s fine, its just the way it was presented.”
Among those with later tee times are Tiger Woods, Masters winner Adam Scott and young sensation Jordan Spieth. With the uncharacteristically hot, dry weather in Scotland, fairways and greens are getting dried out and running very, very quickly.
As the day rolls on, the conditions are only going to get more and more difficult. The early leaders certainly have an advantage, but I have a feeling that the Open will take its pound of flesh from them sooner or later.