Spectators hoping to capture a video of Phil Mickelson chasing history did their part to disrupt his bid for a career Grand Slam on Thursday at the US Open.
Mickelson, bothered at times by noisy cell phones, struggled to a four-over-par 75 and finished the opening round at Torrey Pines eight strokes adrift of pace-setter Russell Henley.
“I’m hitting enough fairways to give myself chances and I’m optimistic that I’ll put together a good round tomorrow,” Mickelson said.
Mickelson, who turned 51 on Wednesday, became the oldest major winner by capturing last month’s PGA Championship.
The left-hander hoped to carry momentum into the US Open, the only major he has never won with a heartbreaking record six runner-up finishes.
Hometown hero Mickelson started on the back nine and made three bogeys in his first six holes, righted the ship with a birdie at 17, then took bogeys at six and seven.
“I was fighting hard throughout the round,” Mickelson said. “I wasn’t really getting anything going and I fought really hard.”
Among the issues Mickelson had to fight were nearby spectators with cell phones taking video images and disrupting his shotmaking, notably at the 13th hole.
“I don’t understand why you just can’t turn that little button on the side into silent,” Mickelson said.
“You have to learn to deal with it. I probably didn’t deal with it internally as well as I could have or as well as I need to.
“It’s part of playing the game out here at this level. Certainly I didn’t do the best job of dealing with it.”
The number of spectators at the US Open is limited to about 8,000 each day this week due to Covid-19 safety measures.
Mickelson noted the issue on his approach to the par-5 13th green, which hit the flagstick and bounced into deep rough on the way to a bogey.
“It’s the video ding. They just kept going off,” Mickelson said. “Look, it did it the next three or four shots thereafter, too, so it’s not like that’s the first time. It’s just that you had to ask three times.
“You have to be able to let that go and not let it get to you and be able to kind of compose yourself and regather your thoughts and so forth, but they certainly didn’t do me any favors, either.”
Mickelson was pleased with a bogey at 13 given his luck with noise and the flagstick.
“I saw it. I heard it. I hammered it. But it was going to be way past (the hole),” Mickelson said. “It was coming in really hot.
“So the fact that I made six there, that’s all I was trying to do after taking a drop. I was very happy with six.”
Mickelson said it’s tougher to have a poor round after winning his sixth major title last month at Kiawah Island.
“I don’t think my expectations have changed,” Mickelson said. “But I feel like I have the confidence and ability to play well enough to get in contention, and so I guess my disappointment when I don’t play to that level is a little bit greater.”
A victory would make Mickelson the sixth man to complete a career Grand Slam, joining Tiger Woods, Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Gene Sarazen.