US Open Golf 2011 Leaderboard: Why Phil Mickelson Struggled at Congressional

Thomas ConroyCorrespondent IJune 17, 2011

BETHESDA, MD - JUNE 16:  Phil Mickelson reacts to missing a chip shot on the 18th hole during the first round of the 111th U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club on June 16, 2011 in Bethesda, Maryland.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Happy 41st birthday!

Or was it, for Phil Mickelson?

His afternoon started as poorly as it can for a golfer as Lefty put his first tee shot into the drink, and that ended up being a double bogey on a Par 3. He spent the rest of the round trying to hit out of the rough, high weeds or from underneath trees.

Nothing went his way, as Mickelson shot a three-over-par 74, and his score could’ve easily been a 78 without a good short game. He couldn’t hit a bunker shot to save par or keep the ball straight off the tee, as they veered left all afternoon long.

Lefty might want to exchange his two-iron for an additional driver in today’s second round.

At times, Mickelson looked like he was hitting with a branding iron—he even resorted to using a driver to hit out of the rough during one of his second shots. Lefty was trying to keep the ball low in his attempts to get back onto the fairway.

Mickelson can find some solace in that he shot a 37 on the front nine, even though he hit only two fairways (five for the entire round) off his tee shots. It’s remarkable that Lefty has stayed in contention, being only nine shots behind the leader Rory McIlroy with three rounds still to play.

Don’t ever count out Mickelson, as his game can show up when you least expect it. This weekend could be the biggest of the year for him; Lefty is primed for another major championship run.

Some weather forecasters are calling for overnight rain in the Bethesda area, and this could prevent the USGA from making course changes prior to the start of the second round. Players should expect softer greens and this could lead to better scores from everyone involved.

After a disastrous first round, things can only get better for Lefty.