U.S. Open 2019: After sharp criticism, Phil Mickelson says the USGA ‘did a heck of a job’ with course setup

June 14, 2019

After issuing some seething remarks about the USGA’s setup of U.S. Open courses just two weeks ago, Phil Mickelson struck a different tone after Thursday’s first round at Pebble Beach.

“I’ve played, what, 29 U.S. Opens. One-hundred percent of time they have messed it up if it doesn’t rain,” Mickelson said at the Memorial Tournament last month. “The rain is the governor. That’s the only governor they have. And if they don’t have a governor they don’t know how to control themselves.”

“It’s just based on history,” he continued. “My 30 years, and 30 years before that. So I think we’re all pulling for a little rain.”

Mickelson has been just one voice in the chorus of animosity aimed at the USGA in recent years. Critics have pointed to an array of issues — from the greens to the rules and just about everything in between. Following an opening round one-over 72 during Thursday’s first round of the 2019 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, Mickelson offered some rare praise for the USGA.

“It seems like (they got it right),” Mickelson said. “There’s three more days. You don’t know how the weather is going to be and all that stuff, but it seems like they did a heck of a job.”

This comes after several players posted low scores on Thursday, setting the pace for the next three rounds. Rickie Fowler, Louis Oosthuizen and Xander Schauffele are the leaders in the clubhouse — each sitting at a five-under 66 through 18 holes. In total, there are 16 players already in the clubhouse under 70, with plenty of others threatening to join soon.

That scoring, in turn, appears to have changed some of the tone in and around the clubhouse among the players. Mickelson was particularly complimentary of the greens, which have led to an uncharacteristic number of birdies on the first day.

“I don’t know, I thought — I think this is the best I’ve ever seen, and I’m sure it will get progressively more difficult,” Mickelson said. “But this was a chance to get a few under par, and I just didn’t quite do it.”

Mickelson is looking for his first U.S. Open title this week to complete the career grand slam, as it is the only major title he has yet to win in his career. Mickelson will tee off at 4:58 p.m. ET/1:58 p.m. local time during Friday’s second round.

To receive GOLF’s all-new newsletters, subscribe for free here.