ARDMORE, Pa. — So much for getting a good night’s sleep.
Phil Mickelson arrived at Merion Golf Club about four hours before his 7:11 a.m. tee time and still managed to shoot a 3-under 67 for the clubhouse lead at Thursday’s opening round of the U.S. Open.
“I might have used just a little caffeine booster at the turn just to keep me sharp,” Mickelson said. “But that was our ninth hole or so, and I just wanted to make sure I had enough energy.”
Mickelson flew overnight from San Diego after watching his oldest daughter’s eighth-grade graduation, where she was one of the featured speakers. At first, he was a little shaky. But after rolling a birdie putt 8 feet past his first hole and putting his tee shot in the rough at his second, he settled himself —helped by a little more sleep during a rain delay.
It was his lowest opening round since 1999 in a championship he’s never won, even though he keeps coming close. He’s been runner-up a record five times.
“If I’m able — and I believe I will — if I’m able to ultimately win a U.S. Open, I would say that it’s great. ... But if I never get that win, then it would be a bit heart-breaking,” Mickelson said.
By the time Mickelson tapped in a par to complete his round, the sun had replaced clouds, and putters had long replaced squeegees. Drenching storms caused a 3½-hour delay, halting play less than two hours after it began.
The rains returned while the marquee group of Tiger Woods, Adam Scott and Rory McIlroy were on the front nine, and play was stopped again at 6:11 p.m. for about 45 minutes.
Woods winced and shook his left arm after playing shots out of the rough on Nos. 1 and 5. The horn sounded before the three-time Open champion could finish the 5th hole, and he returned after the delay to complete a bogey. He also had a pair of 3-putts and was 2 over at the turn.