Phil Mickelson shot an opening-round 79 and then withdrew from the Memorial Tournament on Thursday, saying he was mentally drained.
Making his fourth start in five weeks, in addition to celebrating his wife Amy’s 40th birthday in Europe, playing in a corporate outing in New York, and then this week’s pro-am tuckered out the 41-year-old southpaw, who said he needed to regroup for the U.S. Open in two weeks.
“I think mentally I’m a little bit fatigued,” Mickelson told reporters after posting a 7-over, which was his worst score ever at Jack Nicklaus’ event. “I’m hitting it so poorly that…I have to look at what’s best for me to play in the U.S. Open, and I’m going to take the next few days to kind of rest up.”
While on his way home to see Amy, who turned 40 on Thursday, Mickelson said he might also take a detour to San Francisco to check out the Olympic Club.
“I haven’t had a chance to get out there yet,” Mickelson said. “I know it’s a course that’s very strategic that you have a lot of options off the tee and you have to have a solid game plan heading in, and I haven’t had as much time there as I’d like.”
Mickelson’s brother, Tim, by the way, will attempt to play his way into the Open in a qualifier in Columbus, Ohio, on Monday.
As for the rest of the guys at Muirfield, Scott Stallings fired a 6-under 66 to take a one-shot lead heading into Friday’s second round. Stallings was one shot better than Spencer Levin and two-time heart transplant survivor Erik Compton, while Rory McIlroy rebounded from a quadruple bogey-7 on his third hole to finish with a 71, and Tiger Woods settled for a 70 after posting his own double-bogey on the par-4 18th.
“It wasn’t the start that I wanted to get off to, being 4‑over through three holes, especially after the last few weeks,” said McIlroy, who was coming off two straight missed cuts at the Players Championship and the European Tour’s BMW PGA Championship. “I was just like, here we go again. But I hung in there well, and proud of myself for the way I just fought back. To finish the round under par I thought was a really good effort.”
For Woods, it was all a matter of consistency. “I didn’t do anything great and I didn’t do anything poorly,” he said, “I was just very consistent.”
But back to Mickelson, who excused himself from quitting an event he pledged to play, saying he had to do what was best for him in the long run.
“I feel like it’s the responsibility of a player to see through your commitment and finish the tournament and so forth,” he said. “And I’m kind of overruling that just a touch, because I’m trying to think big picture on what’s the best way for me to get ready for the Open.”
The popular lefty, whose last WD was from the same event in 2007 because of a sore wrist, according to the Associated Press, said he would probably check in with swing coach Butch Harmon to get some help with his game. He did not complain about fans taking photos with their cell phones, although playing partner Bubba Watson opined that the huge gallery clicking off pictures disrupted Mickelson.
“It took Phil out of his game,” Watson told the AP. “Phil’s a great player and a great champion, and it just took him out of his game. It’s sad. It’s sad that cellphones can make or break a championship.”
Watson has griped in the past about the use of cell phones on the course, citing the PGA Tour’s rule that lets fans carry their phones around the links. A prohibition against picture-taking has not worked, he said.
“When they make these marquee pairings, more people are going to follow them and more people want to take pictures, so it makes it very difficult,” said Watson, who scuffled to a 75 in his first tour start since returning from a month’s vacation. “Ever since they made that rule that cellphones are allowed, it’s just not fun playing.”
Fan favorite Mickelson was not about to dis his followers.
“I think it was more that mentally I wasn’t able to focus as well from the last month more than anything,” said Mickelson, who noted that he would get back to the course in a few short days — and not to watch Tim try to earn his way to the Open.
“I have a Monday outing,” he said.