SAN DIEGO – There were no meltdowns or implosions that led to Phil Mickelson's opening-round 77 on the South Course at Torrey Pines on Thursday. He never got stuck behind a tree, never hit a drive off a tent and never wrote a hockey stick (7) or a snowman (8) on his card.
Nope, this five-hour walk under cloudless skies was death by paper cuts, filled with loose play, missed opportunities and frustration.
Foreshadowing the day ahead, Mickelson followed a good drive on No. 1 with an approach shot from 151 yards that leaked to the left and landed in a greenside bunker, leaving him short-sided. He played his bunker shot as well as he could, landing it perfectly on the collar of the green, but the ball rolled downhill and didn't stop until it was 10 feet from the hole.
But instead of making the comebacker, as Phil routinely did in the past, he missed the par-saver on the left side.
In less than 10 minutes he'd gone from the center of the fairway with a short-iron in his hand to a bogey. That maddens pros, and unfortunately for Mickelson, things weren't going to get much better.
On No. 2 Phil hit another drive into the heart of the fairway, and then struck a beautiful approach shot that screeched to a halt six feet from the cup. But Mickelson missed the putt, and he would have only three other realistic chances the rest of the day.
Before signing his card, Mickelson hit into four fairway bunkers, five greenside bunkers, flubbed a chip, rattled out a 3-foot birdie chance and carded five more bogies.
Mickelson's frustration was apparent on several occasions. He slapped his hip with the plastic envelope that held his fresh glove as he walked uphill to the third tee. After missing a six-foot par putt on the 12th, he slammed his driver in the ground on the 13th tee while he waited to hit.
"Obviously I made some bad swings just in the wrong spots and so forth," Mickelson said after his round. "But I felt like my game was ready heading in, and I don't know what to say about the score because it was just pathetic."
As maddening as it was, it was only 18 holes and just Mickelson's fifth competitive round of the season. But on a day when several players went low and carded rounds in the mid- and low-60s (Kyle Stanley and Spencer Levin share the lead after 10-under 62s), Mickelson knows that he's got his work cut out for himself on Friday.
"There is an opportunity tomorrow to go really low over on the North if you play well," he said. "I birdied 17 and I thought I had a birdie on 18, so I missed that little one there. That would have gotten me to a point where I thought if I could have shot 6 or 7 under par on the North, I'd at least get here for the weekend and build some momentum."
Mickelson will need to establish some momentum early on Friday, and sustain it through his entire round, if he wants to play through the weekend.