By Rusty Udy
For The Register-Herald
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS —
The 2013 visit by Phil Mickelson to The Greenbrier Classic can be best described by the Led Zepplin rock documentary, “The Song Remains the Same.”
For the third year in a row, the fan favorite finished the first two days of the tournament over par and missed the cut for the weekend.
Mickelson went out early Friday morning knowing a low score was needed after digging a large hole for himself during Thursday’s opening round. Mickelson had battled the course Thursday at even par through 16 holes before the wheels fell off with a triple bogey on 17 and a bogey on 18.
Starting on the back nine holes, Mickelson took full advantage of the perfect early morning conditions, making four birdies on the first nine holes to pull back to even-par for the tournament. The first nine weare capped by a beautiful sand shot on 17 and a great tee shot on 18 that led to birdies and large roars from the early morning crowd.
With the massive throng of fans hanging on every shot, Mickelson made a nice up-and-down from just off the No. 1 green, but the next hole seemed to derail his chances to play the weekend.
Standing in the middle of the No. 2 fairway after a perfect drive, Mickelson chose to attack the pin that was well tucked behind a large swale in the second green. The shot was dead on line but came up just short and rolled back to the bottom of the swale onto the fringe. The following putt barely missed the cup but rolled six feet past the hole, leaving a tricky downhill putt that Mickelson could not navigate, leading to a crippling bogey for his round.
Mickelson would make a birdie on No. 7, but two more bogeys on hole Nos. 6 and 9 ended any hope of playing the weekend and making the Friday cut.
Friday’s round was promising for Mickelson, though, as he did finish an 18-hole round under par for the first time in his three trips to the Greenbrier Classic.
“I played really well today; I hit a lot of good shots, and I think I’ve figured out why I’ve been struggling here,” lamented Mickelson. “It’s my distance control with my irons I haven’t figured out yet.
“I posed over a lot of iron shots today, and they end up not just a yard or two off from where I figure, but they’re 10 or 12 yards off from where I figure.”
Although he has struggled on the famed Old White TPC during the Greenbrier Classic, Mickelson, being the class act that fans love, raved about the historic course.
“I think it’s one of the best architecturally designed golf courses that we’ve played,” he said. “I mean, I’m looking at every hole, studying it, learning from it. I thought the course set-up was fabulous this year. I just think it is a great track, it’s a wonderful golf course and hotel experience.”
His many fans now hope his love for the course and The Greenbrier eventually lead to his contending on the weekend for the Greenbrier Classic title — and not just a two-day stay.
— E-mail: rudy@