Inauspicious startsJuly 4, 2019

Phil Mickelson has four balls find the water, costing him seven penalty strokes, in the first round of 3M Open

3M Open - Round One
Michael ReavesBLAINE, MINNESOTA - JULY 04: Phil Mickelson of the United States plays a shot on the first hole during the first round of the 3M Open at TPC Twin Cities on July 04, 2019 in Blaine, Minnesota. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

BLAINE, Minn. — After a disappointing U.S. Open at Pebble Beach—where he had just won his 44th PGA Tour title in February—followed by a dreadful second round that resulted in a missed cut at the Travelers Championship, Phil Mickelson arrived at TPC Twin Cities with what he described as “a lot of optimism,” even if he didn’t have much momentum.

He also had good vibes by returning to the area where he helped the U.S. win the 2016 Ryder Cup at nearby Hazeltine National. “I have a lot of great memories here,” he said.

When he looks back, Thursday won’t be one of them.

Optimism and good vibes couldn’t make up for poor execution. On a day when rain left the course vulnerable, Mickelson found a lot of standing water. The big kind. From which you can’t retrieve the ball.

“Oh, my goodness. You know, I had seven penalty strokes,” Mickelson fessed up immediately after posting a three-over 74 in the opening round of the 3M Open, a new PGA Tour event on the course where the PGA Tour Champions played the previous 20 years. “It’s frustrating because I felt like I was playing well, making some good swings. I made some terrible ones.

“I had seven penalty strokes,” he repeated. “You just can’t play like that.”

Four shots that found water resulted in the seven lost strokes, with the most painful interlude occurring at the par-5 18th, where he arrived one under, put two balls in the water—one off the tee and one going for the green with his third shot—and walked away with a triple bogey. For good measure, he put another ball in the water at the par-4 ninth, his final hole of the day.

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He trails leader Scott Piercy by 12 strokes.

Since finishing T-18 at the Masters, Mickelson has missed three of five cuts and has a score of 75 or higher in each of those last five starts, including a second-round 76 that nullified a 67 at the Travelers. His scoring average in that span covering 14 rounds is 72.786. He is clearly not the same player who was second at the Desert Classic and then won his fifth title at Pebble Beach three weeks later.

Should he fail to rebound Friday afternoon, Mickelson will have missed his seventh cut of the season, second most of his career. Twice he missed nine cuts, in 1993 and ’95.

“I’ve got to go low,” said the lefty, 49, who is among the top two or three draws this week at TPC Twin Cities. “I’ve got to go shoot something in the mid-60s just to be here for the weekend.

“I thought coming in I was swinging well, but today tells me I’m not quite there,” he said. “Needs a little work, obviously.”

And a lot fewer penalty strokes.