Mickelson struggles in opening round

Updated: June 18, 2010, 1:31 PM ET
By Bob Harig | ESPN.com

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- It was not the opening day he had in mind. Not even close.

Phil Mickelson, among the favorites to win his first U.S. Open and overtake Tiger Woods for the No. 1 ranking in golf, failed to birdie any holes Thursday at Pebble Beach Golf Links and finished with a disappointing 4-over-par 75.

Mickelson
Mickelson

The score was the second-highest opening round for Mickelson and highest since he opened the 1997 tournament at Congressional with a 75.

"It was one of the worst days I've had putting," Mickelson said. "I had a number of birdie opportunities and couldn't make one. I don't mind the bogeys; that's going to happen at a U.S. Open. I've got to make birdies, though. ... When you putt like I did, there's no way to break par."

Mickelson, who turned 40 on Wednesday, won the Masters in April but has never won the U.S. Open, where he has been runner-up five times.

The four-time major champion has 38 PGA Tour victories and could become the No. 1-ranked player in the world if he wins or finishes among the top three, depending on how Woods fares.

Woods had yet to start his round when Mickelson finished. Lefty trailed four players -- K.J. Choi, Mike Weir, Ian Poulter and Rafael Cabrera-Bello -- who had finished with 1-under-par 70s.

Mickelson started his round on the treacherous 10th hole Thursday morning and made six straight pars. Then things began to unravel. He bogeyed three in a row, including hitting his second shot in the ocean at the par-5 18th, to make the turn at 3-over-par 39.

Things didn't get much better on the front side, where his long bogey came at the short par-4 fourth, and he missed good birdie chances at the second, sixth and ninth holes.

It was the first time Mickelson failed to make a birdie in a round since the opening round of the 2009 Shell Houston Open, a span of 24 events and 95 rounds. Mickelson missed the cut at that event.

"It's just frustrating because I came in here prepared," Mickelson said. "I came in here ready. I hit a lot of good shots today. I gave myself a lot of birdie opportunities and putted terrible.''

He was especially disappointed because Mickelson said he worked last week with two-time major champion and putting guru Dave Stockton.

"I didn't putt great in the practice rounds, but I putted great last week with Stockton and just thought I was ready," he said. "I'm rolling the ball well, but there's something off. The ball is not starting on my line, so there's something a little off. I'll have to work on it. Fortunately I have a lot of time to do that.''

Bob Harig covers golf for ESPN.com.

Bob Harig | email

Golf Writer, ESPN.com