Sports

Mickelson finishes 11 over but praises course

SAN DIEGO — Phil Mickelson had a disappointing weekend at the U.S. Open, but he walked away from the national championship in his hometown at least feeling good about the way the Torrey Pines course played.

Mickelson, 51, shot a 4-over-par 75 on Sunday and finished at 295, 11 over par. He had a chance to possibly get into contention with a good round on Saturday but fell well off the pace.

“Obviously I’m disappointed I didn’t play better,” he said. “I’m very surprised that in the 30 years that I’ve played the U.S. Open, this is the best I’ve seen. I thought they did a remarkable job, and I’m really proud and happy that it’s here at Torrey.

“I think this afternoon is going to be awesome. The setup is the best I’ve ever seen, and it allows on some holes — what they did really well is they made some of the hard holes harder pars, like 11 and 12, and they made some of the easy holes, like 2, easier so you can make birdies. That type of setup allows the players who are playing well to make up ground or separate themselves from the field. They just did such a great job here. I’m very impressed.”

Mickelson, who has six runner-up finishes at the U.S. Open without a victory, has been critical of U.S. Open setups at times over his career. In 2018 at Shinnecock Hills, he infamously hit a moving ball on a green in protest of the setup. And he had talked last year of not accepting a special exemption to play the U.S. Open if one was needed.

He did accept one this year to play in his hometown, but then won the PGA Championship last month, becoming the oldest major champion in history. The hope was to come to Torrey Pines with the same form and make a run at completing the career Grand Slam.

“I was kind of fighting it a little bit and struggled a little bit on Thursday,” Mickelson said. “I really found something on Friday and OK, I’m just going to start playing like I did at Kiawah into the weekend, and Saturday I lost it. So it happens. I just lost the timing, the rhythm got quick, and started hitting it sideways, which you can’t do out here.”

Mickelson is scheduled to play this week at the Travelers Championship and again in two weeks at the Rocket Mortgage Classic, with a break in between before heading to The Open at Royal St. George’s in England.

“There’s some opportunities coming up with the way I’ve been playing that I’m optimistic that I can compete and contend,” he said. “There’s nothing more fun for me than to be in it on the weekend. I’ve actually been playing well enough to have chances, and we have some good tournaments coming up in the next couple of months.

“Afterwards, I’ll look back and reminisce when the season’s over and I have some time in the offseason … and I’ll still have that Wanamaker Trophy I’ll be looking at, and I’m still looking to add a friend to it along the line. That win was very meaningful to me because I’ve been putting in a lot of work the last couple years and getting nothing out of it, and so to have a moment like that is something that makes it worthwhile.”

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