Phil Mickelson was among the friendly and familliar faces to grace the greens at Congressional Country Club in advance of this week’s major tournament. U.S. Opens are especially meaningful to the affable golfer as he’s never won one and leads the league in runner-up finishes at five. The man’s taking this week’s setup in stride and seems to be rather pleased by the conditions. He stressed that the course setup will test someone’s entire game and that it’s a matter of picking your spots.
A point he also made was how surprisingly fair it is and that it’s important to “minimize the miss.” He mentioned the somewhat forgiving nature of the rough and how it’s not as penal as it could be. This goes to the matter of the rough being graduated; Phil says that’s what makes it more playable.
An astute observation also followed: “They haven’t allowed gallery to line both sides of the fairways. Now, not many people notice this, but I do because if I hit it into the people, you know, it would be trampled down. But there are a lot of holes like to the left of 13, to the left of 14, where you normally, if you hit it far enough off line you’d get a pretty good lie. And now because they haven’t allowed people on some of the interior parts of these holes, the rough is more challenging. And so it’s actually a much better test, much fairer test. The less you miss it, the more you’re rewarded with an opportunity to get by the green.”
Phil was his usual jovial self after playing his 18 holes as evidenced by an interaction with the fans. Lefty’s known on the tour for (as a friend puts it) ‘wearing out sharpies’ as he aggressively signs autographs. Today was no exception although the USGA marshals almost tried to make it so. As Phil was walking off 18 there was a row of fans clamoring for autographs that the volunteers suddenly insisted on clearing out. There was a small cluster that Phil was able to get to before the marshalls cut him off completely but it was maybe a quarter of the throng. And then without provocation, Phil announced that he was headed to the putting green and all but invited those who he didn’t get to to join him there.
As for who he played alongside, Phil was partnered with Dustin Johnson and went out of his way to laud the young player as well as some of his youthful counterparts. Phil did so thusly, “We have a plethora of great players coming up. And I think at the forefront is a guy like Dustin Johnson. This guy has got so much raw talent that I really enjoy playing with him because he’s a fun guy and he’s got all kinds of game. We’ve got guys like Jeff Overton, who I played with today, or Hunter Mahan, Anthony Kim, as well as some good young players like a Rickie Fowler, Jamie Lovemark, who’s been a little bit hurt, we’ve got guys in college now, Anthony Paolucci, who made the cut at San Diego earlier this year. We’ve got some really good, young, talented players coming up through the ranks, and I think we’re going to be very competitive in the team events.”
Mickelson gets a late tee time of 1:35 Thursday off #10. He’s grouped with practice round partner Dustin Johnson and crowd favorite Rory McIlroy.