Tough start for Mickelson at US Open

 

Golf:  Phil Mickelson took the long walk back to the tee after losing a ball with his opening drive at the US Open in San Francisco today. The five-time runner-up’s hook into the trees down the Olympic Club’s 449-yard ninth — that is where half the field started — could not be found in the permitted five minutes and, with so many people around, was assumed to be up in the branches somewhere.

Mickelson made birdie with his second ball, but that meant a five went on to his card and he followed with two more bogeys. He was paired with Tiger Woods, who began his bid for a fourth title with three solid pars, and Masters champion Bubba Watson, whose bogeys on the ninth and 11th were both the result of driving into the rough.

As Mickelson trudged back up the hill at the ninth Woods and Watson went ahead and played their second shots, but Watson moved his ball less than 10 yards, while two holes later he could not make the green after hooking his drive this time.

After the first 90 minutes play in the second major of the year — and traditionally the toughest despite what Rory McIlroy did at Congressional last year — it came as no surprise that nobody was better than one under par.

South African Branden Grace, three-time winner on the European Tour this season but one of the last players to earn a spot through the world’s top 60, did reach two under with birdies at the 10th and 11th, but he bogeyed the next.

That put him alongside Americans Scott Piercy, Kevin Na, Jason Bohn, Joe Ogilvie, David Toms and Zach Johnson. Woods had chances to birdie all his first three, but just missed from around 25 feet at the ninth and from 15 feet on the next two.

It was a baptism of fire, meanwhile, for China’s 14-year-old qualifier Andy Zhang, the youngest player ever in the championship. He ran up a triple bogey seven on the 520-yard first — third longest par four in US Open history — and then dropped two more shots on the second.