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Friday, June 14, 2013

OK, So Maybe Phil CAN Play Strategically...

A quick note about TV broadcasts: ESPN is going to start coverage a half-hour earlier this morning. Coverage will begin at 8:30am ET.

Yes, I admit it. In Tuesday's "My 5 for the Open" post I wrote that:
Likewise, Phil Mickelson seems to be playing pretty well... but I simply don't believe he's emotionally capable of playing a strategic game at Merion. Phrankenwood is going to break loose from the lab and go on a rampage because Phil isn't satisfied with any win that doesn't require heroics.
And he certainly proved me wrong. He walked off his private jet (after flying back from his daughter Amanda's 8th grade graduation) directly onto the course, bogeyed his first hole (his only bogey of the day), and then proceeded to shoot 4-under over the next 17 holes. Even with a 3.5 hour rain and lightning delay in the middle of it.

He played an utterly unPhil-like game, hitting all but 3 fairways and all but 3 greens. He hit irons off most of the tees. He only took 29 putts despite that 3-putt bogey at the start of his round. He even managed a few heroics... but he limited them to his short game.

Phil prepares to make another putt

I understand he took his driver out of the bag and added an extra wedge, meaning he has 5 wedges in his bag this week. (Even Dave Pelz must have looked askance at that!) But so far it seems to be working.

The real irony of all this is that only two of the players in the clubhouse are under par: Phil at -3 and Nicolas Colsaerts at -1. (This ties Phil's best first round in a U.S. Open since way back in 1999!) And while 13 other players are under par as I'm writing this, there's no guarantee that any of them will be under par once the round is finished. Bear in mind that several players got it under par in the morning, but only Phil and Nicolas were able to post. Luke Donald currently leads at -4, but he's got that tough 5-hole stretch from 14 to 18 coming up this morning... and the wind is supposed to change.

So I was wrong. Phil is in great position after the first round to get a U.S. Open of his very own. All he has to do is keep doing what he did Thursday. Maybe Phil CAN strategically plot his way around Merion...

And then again, maybe it was just jet lag. This IS Phil, after all. ;-)

The photo came from cbssports.com.

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