ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – Two bad swings with a 5-iron likely cost Phil Mickelson the chance to contend Sunday at the 150th anniversary of the Open Championship.
After posting just four birdies through 36 holes on the Old Course at St. Andrews, Lefty rolled in five birdies in a 10-hole stretch around the turn Saturday to get to 4 under for the championship, just as leader Louis Oosthuizen was teeing off at 12 under.
But then the wheels on the Mickelson Express fell off. Mickelson tried to play a low hook with a 5-iron off the tee at the par-4 16th, but over-cooked it and his ball rolled out of bounds. It resulted in a double bogey. He followed with another bad swing with a 5-iron at the demanding par-4 17th and made bogey.
“I’m disappointed in myself because I let a good round slide,” said Mickelson, who birdied No. 18 to shoot 70 and finish at 2-under 214 for the championship. “I had an opportunity to get back into the tournament somewhat, to where a good round tomorrow could maybe get it done, and I let it go.”
Mickelson rarely has much mojo at the Open Championship, but he thought this time could be different. Despite just one top-10 finish in 16 appearances at the Open, Mickelson said earlier in the week that he expected to be in contention come Sunday. After all, he was coming off a victory at the Masters and a T-4 at the U.S. Open. He also knew that with a top-4 finish at St. Andrews, he could supplant Tiger Woods atop the world ranking.
Mickelson, who was tied for 29th when he finished, hit 12 fairways and 15 greens, both single-round highs for him this week. The wind, which caused an hour delay Friday afternoon, was up, but not brutal, and holes were cut in accessible locations.
“I thought this was a fun day to play this championship under these conditions,” Mickelson said. “I’m going to get off (tomorrow) well before the leaders. Maybe I could shoot 7, 8, 9 under par. You never know what’s going to happen out here.”