Phil Mickelson perplexed some fans when he fired an opening 65 at the Safeway Open a week after a massive struggle of a performance at the Ryder Cup.
Yes it may seem confusing at a superficial glance, but first off this is golf – it’s such a random and illogical game. Secondly, Le Golf National was a tight and penal setup … which is horrible for Mickelson’s style of play. This week’s Safeway Open site, Silverado Resort and Spa’s North Course, is a more wide-open track that plays into Mickelson’s hands.
Mickelson explained that after his round Thursday, and it was a pretty telling response.
Lefty was blunt in his answer, one that is making waves:
It’s a unique situation in that the way the Europeans did a great thing, they did the opposite of what we do when we have the Ryder Cup here. The fairways were 14 to 16 yards wide. Ben Hogan, who is the greatest ball-striker of all time, had a five percent margin of error. So if you hit the ball 300 yards, which we all hit it more than that, you need to have a 30-yard fairway to be able to hit it.
The fact is they had brutal rough, almost unplayable, and it’s not the way I play. I don’t play like that. And here (at Safeway) I can miss the fairways, I can get shots out of the rough up on the green and it’s playable.
And I’m 48. I’m not going to play tournaments with rough like that anymore. It’s a waste of my time. I’m going to play courses that are playable and that I can play aggressive, attacking, make a lot of birdies, (the) style of golf I like to play.
That is a thorough and interesting assessment.
To be clear, Mickelson is not criticizing the Europeans for setting up Le Golf National that way. In fact, he applauded them off the bat for setting up the course to their advantage.
His point is part of why he played so poorly at the Ryder Cup is it being on a narrow and penal course that is the antithesis of his style, and there’s no reason for him to seek out playing a layout like that going forward on his schedule.
Of course, he’ll probably have to still suck it up at least once a year with the U.S. Open. Regardless, his explainer makes sense.
That U.S. Open title remains the elusive one preventing Mickelson from having the career grand slam.
So these comments could signal that this will never change.