No. 13 Is Unlucky For Mickelson

The 108th U.S. Open played at Torrey Pines South Course in San Diego.
By Gene Wang
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, June 15, 2008

SAN DIEGO, June 14 -- Early this week, Phil Mickelson had plenty to say about the renovated 13th hole at Torrey Pines South. None of it was complimentary.

He called the new tee box on the par 5 "terrible" and a "waste of money." Normally 539 yards at the Buick Invitational, No. 13 is playing 614 yards for the U.S. Open. The new layout means even the longest hitters can't reach the green in two shots.

Mickelson figured to supply more invective after carding a 9 there Saturday. That calamity all but ended the San Diego native's chances of winning the tournament.

"Well gosh, it's a birdie hole," said Mickelson, who needed six shots to get on the green, "and here I was 1 over par. I felt like if I could get a birdie there on 13 I could get back to even for the day. And over par's going to win. I felt like, gosh, 1 or 2 [over par] coming in, I would be right there. And so obviously that's a bummer."

It wasn't Mickelson's first quadruple bogey there either.

"Oh no, I've had a nine at 13," he said. "I was eight years old."

Mickelson, however, avoided impugning the hole further after his round was complete. He instead strolled down the walkway past spectators surrounding the 18th green, gave a thumbs-up to some well-wishers and smiled as he passed the media throng.

After signing his scorecard, Mickelson spoke with his caddie and welcomed an embrace from wife Amy. He smiled throughout almost the entire cooling-down period.

"I think that this has been the best U.S. Open setup I've ever seen," Mickelson said. "I know I'm a little biased. I'm from here, but the course -- here I am 9 over par saying this -- it is the fairest setup I've ever seen."

Mickelson employed a new strategy for this U.S. Open by not carrying a driver for the first two rounds. One of the longest hitters in the world, Mickelson used a 3-wood off the tee as he sacrificed distance for precision -- or at least that was the intent.

Entering the weekend, Mickelson was last in driving accuracy out of 80 players who made the cut. He also missed 8 of 14 fairways in the third round.

"The Open, you don't need power, you know," Mickelson said. "I need to get in the fairway, and I still hit less than half the fairways with the 3-wood. But a 3-wood goes plenty far to play well here."

Mickelson inserted a driver into his bag for the third round, specifically because he deemed the par-5 ninth to be reachable, he said. Mickelson hit the green in two Saturday, but he settled for a birdie when an eagle would have given him an even-par 35 over his front nine.

"I'm certainly disappointed that I'm not in the mix right now," said Mickelson, a four-time runner-up at the Open. "That was the goal, so I'm going to come out tomorrow, enjoy my final round.

"And Bethpage is one of the best places ever, one of the best memories in the game of golf I've ever had. I get to go back there next year for the U.S. Open, so I'm excited about the chance to try to break through and win my first U.S. Open there."

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