SAN DIEGO — Phil Mickelson finally had a driver in his bag at the 108th U.S. Open, but his wedge play led to a quadruple-bogey 9 on the 13th hole that effectively ended his hopes of winning. After his round, he was in a strangely bubbly mood as he stopped to chat with the media for five minutes.
"I'm biased because I'm from here, but the course — here I am 9 over par saying this — it's the fairest setup I've ever seen," said Mickelson, who shot a third-round 76. "The rough around the greens gives us a chance to play. The rough just off the fairway gives us a chance to play. The pin placements have been perfect — there's been a mixture of some very hard ones, some accessible ones as well as some medium pins."
Of his killing quad on the unlucky 13th, which included four wedge shots, three of which failed to hold the green, he said:
"It's a birdie hole. Here I was, one over par, I felt like if I could get birdie there I could get back to even for the day. Over par is going to win, and I felt like gosh, one or two [birdies] coming in and I'd be right there. So that's obviously a bummer.
"Hitting driver just threw me off," he joked. "It's a great pin that will entice guys to get a little bit close, and certainly that's what I did on my first shot. The other two were just poor, but the first shot had a chance of getting close and making birdie and it just came back down."
Mickelson hit a lob wedge for his first attempt from 80-some yards, and his 64-degree wedge for his second, third and fourth attempts. He had perfect lies for all four shots, he said, something that probably enticed him into being "too cute." In all of his years playing Torrey Pines, had he ever had a 9 on that hole?
"Oh, no, I've had a 9 on 13," he said. "I mean I was 8 years old, but ... "
Despite putting a driver in his bag for the first time this Open, and taking a sand wedge out, Mickelson only hit six of 14 fairways, the third day in a row he's been stuck at that number.
"Why did I put the driver back in? I felt like nine was going to be reachable," he said. "The wind is usually right to left on nine, sometimes hurting, and it was actually helping yesterday and today. And I was able to get there; I hit a driver and a hybrid on. I didn't hit that many drivers. On 18 I hit 3-wood. But I needed to try to make some birdies and get some shorter irons in, being that I was four over. I started out hitting some decent drives, but the back nine I missed fairways."
The lefthander, a San Diego native and resident, emphasized his pride in the quality of this U.S. Open, but he said he was "disappointed I'm not in the mix." Asked if perhaps he wanted it too much, he quickly agreed.
"It's possible," he said. "This is something I wanted a lot; I just didn't play well this week."