Stars Mick­el­son, McIl­roy, Spi­eth crash at Shin­necock

The Record (Troy, NY) - - SPORTS - By Doug Fer­gu­son

SOUTHAMP­TON, N.Y. » Three holes into his 27th U.S. Open, Phil 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 wasn’t alone. Mick­el­son was in the mar­quee group Thurs­day morn­ing, which fea­tured three play­ers who have a dozen ma­jors among them. And be­cause USGA of­fi­cials try to have a sense of hu­mor, 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.

Jor­dan Spi­eth shot a 78, his high­est score in a ma­jor.

Rory 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 U.S. 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 a painful to watch from the start at No. 10, where Spi­eth made bo­gey with a three-putt from long range and Mick­el­son went over the green. That’s to be ex­pected at the U.S. Open.

It quickly un­rav­eled for Spi­eth.

From a bunker right on the par-3 11th, his shot came out strong to­ward the hole and went just far enough to catch a slope and roll out some 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.

Twenty-five min­utes af­ter he teed off, it looked as though his U. S. 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 U.S. 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-toright wind and it landed in grass so deep the mar­shal couldn’t 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,” Mick­el­son­saidto him. “Get in there and find it.”

The mar­shal even­tu­ally did. Mick­el­son got a wedge and lost it again. That’s when he called for the rul­ing, didn’t get it, and did well to make bo­gey.

McIl­roy’s turn was on No. 14, when he went right into the hay and needed a search party of about a dozen to find it. McIl­roy didn’t 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.

CAROLYN KASTER — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Phil Mick­el­son hits out of the fes­cue on the 12th hole dur­ing the first round of the U.S. Open Golf Cham­pi­onship, Thurs­day in Southamp­ton, N.Y.

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