Phil Mickelson’s tee shot on No. 3 landed in the rough to the right, and when he arrived at his ball he saw a man sitting on the ground, holding an icepack to his right temple, with medical staff gathered around.
Mickelson went over and gave the man a glove and apologized. One problem: It was Sam Horsfield’s shot from the neighboring sixth hole that hit him.
“It’s just instinct,” Mickelson said, drawing laughter from the gallery. “I would normally think it’s me.”
That’s how things went for the six-time U.S. Open runner-up at The Country Club this week: a series of apologies, interrupted by a whole lot of bad golf shots.
“Wish I had played better,” Mickelson, who declined to talk to reporters, said in a transcript that was distributed by the USGA on Friday after he followed a first-round 78 with a 3-over 73 to finish 11 over and miss the cut at plus-3.
“It was OK. I had a good day,” he said.
A six-time major champion who has become the face of the Saudi Arabia-backed LIV Golf tour, Mickelson was competing on American soil for the first time in more than four months.
But if the fans held his cash grab against him, they didn’t let it show.
“Phil, liven it up!”
“Long live Phil!”
“You’ve got work to do!”
“A 62 makes the cut, Phil!”
“You and me forever, baby!”
“Call it a comeback, Phil!”
“See you in Portland!” — a reference to the next LIV tour event.
And the fans in a tent next to the sixth tee sang him “Happy Birthday.”
“The fans here have always been terrific, and they really support all sports,” Mickelson said, according to the transcript. “I love it when we bring golf here because they create a really special atmosphere.”
Mickelson had little else to smile about. Starting on the 10th hole, he made back-to-back-to-back bogeys on Nos. 13-15 and needed a 15-footer to save par on the third hole after nearly winding up in the gallery with his drive.
He wasn’t as lucky on No. 4, a 493-yard par 4, where he missed a 12-foot par putt and left himself almost as much coming back for bogey. But the 52-year-old left-hander — his birthday was actually Thursday — followed with back-to-back birdies.
He sank a 43-foot putt from the front apron on the fifth hole and one that was nearly 60 feet on the sixth, both times acknowledging the crowd’s cheers with a thumbs-up and wave. On his way to the seventh tee, he gave his ball to a 9-year-old girl standing by the ropes.
“I enjoyed the week,” said Mickelson, who left Brookline still needing a U.S. Open victory to complete his career Grand Slam. “It was spectacular to come back to such a historic course, and I thought the setup was remarkable. Just really showcased what a special place this is.”