BETHESDA, Md. (AP) — It took some prodding, but Phil Mickelson acknowledged that he felt pain in his left wrist during his opening-round 4-over-par 74 at the AT&T National on Thursday.
Mickelson told reporters that his injured wrist was “OK” and “all right” several times before conceding that it hurt during a lackluster round in which he made two bogeys, a double bogey and no birdies. He is playing in his first tournament since wrist pain hindered him when he missed the cut at the U.S. Open three weeks ago.
Mickelson was cleared to play this week by a doctor and does not plan to withdraw. He finished the day tied for 93rd.
“I expect it to be OK,” Mickelson said. “I was told that it may hurt, but I won’t be doing any more damage. So I’ve been going after it pretty good, and it does hurt, but as long as I am not doing any more damage I’m OK.”
Mickelson wore a brace on his wrist during Wednesday’s pro-am, after which he said his wrist was “not quite a hundred” percent.
He played without the brace on Thursday and instead blamed his putting for his score. Mickelson double-bogeyed the par-4 sixth after his only three-putt of the round.
“I was a little rustier today than I thought I would be,” said Mickelson, who finished with 30 putts. “I had been playing all last week. I thought I was playing pretty well and … hit a reasonable number of good shots, but I scored terrible. The course wasn’t that hard to keep it around par or under, and I really struggled on the greens. I didn’t make any putts.”
WHITE HOUSE VISIT Mickelson was one of seven golfers who, along with their families, celebrated the Fourth of July at the White House with President Bush on Wednesday evening.
The group toured the White House, ate dinner and watched fireworks on an evening that doubled as a birthday celebration for the President, who turns 61 on Friday. Fred Funk, Brad Faxon, Justin Leonard, Davis Love III, Paul Azinger and Jeff Maggert also attended.
“It was a great experience,” Funk said. “I think my wife and I and everyone that was there was made to feel so comfortable. It was really laid back and a lot of fun.”
Of those golfers, Funk posted the best score Thursday with a 3-under-par 67, one stroke off the lead. The former University of Maryland golf coach is a hometown favorite among the galleries here, and he hopes to reward his local followers with his first area win.
“You put self-imposed pressure on you,” Funk said of his troubles in area tournaments. “You want it so bad.”
Funk lamented his play off the tee Thursday after missing three of 14 fairways. He was 1-over after 10 holes but eagled the 415-yard par-4 11th and birdied Nos. 16 and 18. On 11, his 9-iron from 139 yards hit 6 inches from the hole, took one hop and dropped in.
“I was playing a little too conservative and a little too scared off the tee,” he said. “I was mainly trying to stay out of that really thick rough that was out there because once you’re in that stuff you’re done, you’re chipping out.”
FURYK AND FLUFF Co-leader Jim Furyk shot a 4-under-par 66 with the help of a course expert.
Furyk’s caddie, Mike “Fluff” Cowan, is a member at Congressional Country Club and has navigated the Blue Course countless times. He also caddied here for Tiger Woods during the 1997 U.S. Open.
“He knows the greens pretty well,” Furyk said. “He was able to help out the last time I was here on a few putts and today on a few key putts when he made some good reads. I still have to hit the golf shots, but I’m comfortable on this golf course already, and to have him … know the golf course so well can only help.”
Furyk was accurate off the tee, as usual. The PGA Tour’s third-most accurate driver was steady and took few risks in hitting 12 of 14 fairways. He made three birdies on the front nine, gave back a stroke with a 3-putt bogey on the par-3 10th and birdied Nos. 13 and 16.
“I really kept the ball in front of myself today, hit a ton of fairways and I was able to knock a couple putts in here and there,” Furyk said.