Star trio of Mickelson, McIlroy, Spieth fails to shine

(L-R) Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland, Jordan Spieth of the United States, and Phil Mickelson of the United States walk up the tenth green during the first round of the 2018 US Open at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club on June 14, 2018

Southampton (United States) (AFP) – Phil Mickelson’s hopes of easing his way into the US Open in search of potentially career-defining win evaporated in the winds whipping across Shinnecock Hills on Thursday.

Mickelson, a six-time US Open runner-up who needs only his national title to complete the career Grand Slam, hit 13 of 14 fairways but found only nine greens in regulation on his way to a seven-over par 77.

Astonishingly, that was the best score of the day in a group that included four-time major winner Rory McIlroy and three-time major winner Jordan Spieth.

McIlroy’s 10-over 80 matched his worst in a major and Spieth signed for an eight-over 78 — making for a combined 25-over par for the group that collectively owns 12 major titles.

Looking ahead to his latest assault on the US Open, Mickelson had said the “last thing” he would be thinking about on Thursday was winning.

“When you try to go out and win a US Open, you will lose it quick,” he said.

A softly-softly strategy proved no help, however, as Mickelson opened with a bogey at the 10th, then found himself hunting for his hidden ball in the rough at 12.

He would drop a shot there and another at 13, bogeys at 16, two and three taking him to six-over before his only birdie of the day at the par-five fifth.

Mickelson would make no worse than bogey — adding two more at six and eight.

Spieth followed his opening bogey with a triple bogey seven at 11.

His shot out of a greenside bunker sailed over the green and his first chip up hesitated on the putting surface then rolled back to his feet before he could run up to mark it.

“Just tried to do a little too much on the second hole and it kind of bit me,” Spieth said. “From there it was just kind of a grind.”

Spieth would add four more bogeys and a double-bogey at the par-three seventh before it was over, sometimes showing his frustration as the wind made shot selection difficult and added to the challenges of Shinnecock’s sloping greens.

“You just have to stay patient and understand that you are going to shoot four-over-plus once you are four-over through two holes,” Spieth said.

McIlroy had three double bogeys on his card, including two in a row at 13 and 14.

He was fortunate to come away with a bogey at the par-five 16th, where his shot from a fairway bunker got caught by the trailing fescue grass and just reached the fairway.

He finished the round with bogeys at two of his last three holes. Even with just a handful of players breaking par, the Northern Ireland star who lifted the trophy at Congressional in 2011 looked well on his way to a third straight missed cut at the US Open.