HOYLAKE, England — A good bogey, like a quiet mother-in-law or tasty British cuisine, sounds like an oxymoron.
Alas, Phil Mickelson’s bogey on No. 18 during the first round of the 143rd Open Championship was a good one. Maybe even a great one.
The defending champion struggled with his putter at Royal Liverpool on Thursday en route to a 2-over-par 74, but saved his round — and perhaps his tournament — on the final hole.
The 551-yard, par-5 18th, which plays as No. 16 the rest of the year, bends from left to right and is reachable in two for longer hitters. On Thursday, it played as the fourth-easiest hole despite one major quirk: internal out of bounds.
Internal O.B. is exactly what it sounds like and yet it’s still confusing. The O.B. cuts into the right side of the fairway toward the end of the drive zone and requires players to carry it on the second shot. Phil Mickelson attempted to reach the par-5 in two with his 3-wood and pulled it into the white-staked area.
“Nobody pointed that it was out, so I thought it was O.K.,” Mickelson said.
It wasn’t. So Mickelson hopped in a golf cart and made the lonely ride back to replay the shot. (Most golfers have been there, if not with a chauffeured ride back up the fairway.)
Mickelson pulled 3-wood again, this time pushing his approach into the left rough. Taking a mighty cut from wispy hay, he hit a soaring flop shot that nestled near the hole and drained the bogey putt.
It’s a small miracle Mickelson escaped with a 74. He was paired with Ernie Els and Bubba Watson in a train wreck of a group. Together they’ve won 11 majors. On a calm and sunny Thursday at Hoylake, they combined to shoot 13-over. Els tripled the opening hole after striking a spectator with his tee shot and three-putting from one foot on his way to a 79. Watson muttered about the spectators crowding the fairways, appeared annoyed by the vagaries of links golf and signed for a 76.
Mickelson’s round fits a trend of mediocre beginnings to title defenses at the Open. He is the fourth-straight defending British Open champ to shoot 2-over or higher in the opening round of his title defense, dating back to Ernie Els, Darren Clarke and Louis Oosthuizen.
Despite his rocky start, the perpetually peppy Mickelson is upbeat about the state of his game.
“It was as good as I’ve hit the ball all year,” he said. "I don't like the score but I like the way I'm playing.”
Bogeys and all.