Woods, Mickelson, McIlroy, Spieth all crash at US Open
The glamour group of the US Open, Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth have crashed at Shinnecock Hills — a course so tough golf pros are in danger of looking like weekend hackers.
Three holes into his 27th US Open, Mickelson called over a rules official for a question rarely heard.
"Is there a rule that allows me to see the ball when I hit it?" he asked.
There was no relief for Mickelson. Not on the 12th hole at Shinnecock Hills. Not at many others.
And he was not alone.
Mickelson was in the marquee group on Thursday morning, which featured three players who have a dozen majors among them. And because USGA officials try to have a sense of humour, they put together the only three active players who have three legs of the career grand slam.
Mickelson shot a 77. He had the lowest score in the group.
Spieth shot a 78 — his highest score in a major.
McIlroy, who came bouncing into this major full of confidence and affection for Shinnecock Hills, was 10-over par through 11 holes. He played even par the rest of the way and shot an 80 for his highest score in the US Open.
How did this happen?
Hard to say. Mickelson and McIlroy refused requests to speak to the media.
"There were certainly some dicey pins," Spieth said.
"But at the same time, there was guys that shot under par. So I could have played better."
This was painful to watch from the start at hole number 10, where Spieth made bogey with a three-putt from long range and Mickelson went over the green. That is to be expected at the US Open.
It quickly unravelled for Spieth.
From a bunker right on the par-3 11th, his shot came out strongly towards the hole and went just far enough to catch a slope and roll out 15 yards. His first pitch came back to his feet. His second pitch nearly did. He used a putter and hit that 6 feet by the hole.
Just 25 minutes after teeing off, it looked as though his US Open could be over. He made the putt for triple bogey, leaving him at 4-over through two holes.
"When I hit the bunker shot, I thought I hit a good shot," Spieth said.
"I played the aggressive route and it hurts you. You can't really do that at the US Open. When you're out of position you have to just give yourself a chance to save par, and if you make bogey, you make bogey."
Then, it was Mickelson's turn.
He constantly laid well back off the tee to make sure he kept it in the short grass, and Mickelson hit 13 out of 14 fairways. Little good that did him. He tugged his approach with a left-to-right wind and it landed in grass so deep the marshal could not find it.
Mickelson explained to the volunteer that if the player stepped on the ball, it would be a penalty. But it was OK if the volunteer accidentally stepped on it.
"You've got to find it, man," Mickelson said to him. "Get in there and find it."
The marshal eventually did. Mickelson got a wedge and lost it again. That was when he called for the ruling, did not get it, and did well to make bogey.
McIlroy's turn was on 14, when he went right into the hay and needed a search party of about a dozen to find it.
McIlroy did not need any help finding the next one, because he took a whack and saw it move only 6 feet. That led to one of his two double bogeys.
And so it went for more than five hours. They did not all hit the same green in regulation until their sixth hole.
Mickelson did well to avoid a big number. He just made eight bogeys.
That strategy of playing the par-5 16th hole did not work out so well. Mickelson was in prime position for a birdie on the 16th with a wedge into the green. He hit it thin and over the green, and turned a birdie chance into a soft bogey.
A gust got him on the 6th hole, and the ball buried just beneath the lip of a bunker. Mickelson turned at a 90-degree angle and played back toward the fairway, pitched up to about 12 feet and made it for bogey.
That felt like a par. That had to do, because there were so few birdies.
Even being 4-over after two holes, Spieth figured even par would be a reasonable start on a day like this, a course like this. And he made a long birdie at the 9th to make the turn at 4-over.
Instead, he bogeyed the opening two holes of the front nine. And after his birdie on the par-5 5th, he missed the sixth fairway and made another bogey. And there were not many birdie opportunities to make up for that.
Tiger finds it tough
Elsewhere, Englishman Scott Gregory endured a horror opening round, recording a 92-shot, 22-over, with only three pars in the round.
The 23-year-old was among the first to finish his opening round, and he probably couldn't get away from the course quickly enough.
In one stretch, Gregory — the 2016 British Amateur champ missed the cut in last year's US Open while still an amateur —double-bogeyed three straight holes.
"It's been a long time," he said after claiming last place early on in the US Open. "It's not the week I wanted to revisit it."
His advice for those not yet out on the course: "You can't miss it long, short, left or right. If you hit it in the middle, you're all right."
Still, it wasn't all bad for Gregory, he got to meet Tiger Woods.
"I've been waiting for that picture for 15 years," he said. "So it's quite a big deal."
Speaking of Tiger, things went south rapidly for the 14-time major winner on the very first hole as he recorded a triple bogey, following that up with a double bogey on the second.
After rallying to play the final seven holes on the front side in 1-under par, Woods fell apart on the greens.
He bogeyed the 11th, then made successive double bogeys on 13 and 14, including a four-putt on the 13th.
After the second straight 6, Woods walked slowly off the green, seemingly beaten by Shinnecock's harsh greens and his failing putter.
He finished up for the day in a tie for 102nd with an 8-over par 78, nine shots off the lead.
Aussies also struggle
Aaron Baddeley and Marc Leishman are the best-placed of the Australian contingent after the first round by shooting a 4-over par 74 to sit in a tie for 38th spot.
Matt Jones is in a tie for 69th spot after he carded a 76-shot 6-over with Adam Scott and Jason Scrivener a further two shots back in 103rd.
Jason Day, Cameron Smith and David Bransdon all shot a 9-over par 79, placing them in 118th spot.
Meanwhile, at the top of the leaderboard, Americans Dustin Johnson, Scott Piercy and Russell Henley are in a four-way tie with Englishman Ian Poulter who recorded a 1-under 69 — the only four players to go under par on a tough first day at Shinnecock Hills.