Lefty Sizzled On The Front 9, But Let Birdies Slip Away On 16, 17 And 18

By Ann Liguori
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UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. (CBSNewYork)  Phil Mickelson started the first round of the U.S. Open looking like the 2013 British Open champ he was, excelling on a links layout which reminds most players of playing overseas, but with lots more elevation.

Hoping to win his first U.S. Open after a record six runner-up finishes, Mickelson sank three birdies and led or held a share of the lead over his first nine holes. His third shot on the first hole landed a foot from the cup, sending the galleries into an uproar.

But bogies on holes 10, 13 and 14 dropped him back to 1 under and he eventually finished with a 69, four shots behind early leaders Henrik Stenson and Dustin Johnson.

“I’m very pleased with the way the round went. I hit a lot of good shots today,” Mickelson said later. “I shot under par the first day of the U.S. Open. The first round was the round I was going to be most nervous at, getting started. You don’t want to have to fight to come back all the time. You want to get off to a solid start around par. And I got off to a good start and shot 1-under.”

Mickelson missed birdie opportunities on holes 16, 17 and 18 but stayed positive after his first round was in the books.

“I think that the shot, like the shot I hit on 1 for a par, where I hit it up there from down in that low area up to a foot, that’s the type of … that’s the shot that I feel like will allow me to do well here,” Mickelson said.

Stenson and Johnson also played in the morning and took advantage of the mild conditions.

Johnson drained six birdies, but finished with a bogie on his final hole, the par 3, 9th. Stenson birdied four of his last five holes.

Patrick Reed sank a birdie on his last hole to shoot 66 and Matt Kuchar carded a 67.

Bubba Watson struggled with two doubles and a bogie but with five birdies was able to finish at even par. Rory McIlroy shot a 2-over 72 in what he called “benign” conditions.

With Johnson and Stenson looking almost unflappable in the morning, the afternoon audience watched Tiger Woods struggle, as he started bogie, bogie, par, bogie and finished at 10-over 80.

Masters champ Jordan Spieth, whose caddy Michael Greller taught in this area before connecting with Spieth and caddied here at Chambers Bay, looked steady after parring the first five holes and finished at 2-under.

Conditions became more difficult in the afternoon as the fescue on both the fairways and greens dried out.

But Johnson and Stenson were long gone by then, both looking for their first major title.

Follow Ann on Twitter at @AnnLiguori

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