Mickelson feels the love as fans help him to survive first-day grind
Published 29/07/2016 | 02:30
"Love ya, Phil, love ya." The second 'love ya' was delivered just to emphasise the special place occupied by Phil Mickelson in the hearts of the golf followers of America.
A smile of acknowledgement, a tilt of the head, and Phil strode on to the next tee.
That's how it was as the five-time Major winner embarked on his 24th US PGA Championship in the company of Rory McIlroy and Jason Day yesterday.
The fans sweltered in the morning heat which had reached 'only' 80 degrees, and was to later rise to 92 degrees.
Mickelson's golf was scrappy through the last four holes of his opening nine which had started at the 10th tee.
On the 230-yard 16th, he sliced the ball short and left into the rough, but still nodded and smiled as another fan yelled, "Phil... way to go at Troon."
The recovery shot flighted to the flagstick and brought roars of approval.
Unfortunately, while the ball landed almost by the hole, it rolled on 20 feet, and the groans of sympathy announced that his putt had finished just inches away from the cup.
On 17, the monster 649-yard par-five, he took a three-wood, and hooked it horribly into the crowd.
Still, they applauded.
"That's why you gotta love him," said a male gallerista. "He's creative," said a woman.
Indeed he was, as he dug out a saving par five, despite his visit into the galleries to find his ball.
On 18, Captain Hook came out to play again, first off the tee and again on his approach shot to the elevated green.
This time, no escape, as he took bogey.
At three-over, the Open runner-up looked out of answers, but while McIlroy slumped, Phil battled back to close on one-over par 71 - a case of the old dog for the hard road.
Afterwards, Mickelson felt very positive, as a bogey on the second hole - his 11th - pushed him to four-over par.
"I'll tell you what was a big thing for me today was the people out here, the crowd.
"I was four-over through 11 and I'm down, I'm hard on myself, I'm down. The people helped to really kind of pick me back up.
"I remember walking off of number three and a guy said, 'Hey, you've got a lot of golf left, you're not out of this, let's get going.'
"He's right. Got a lot golf left. I came back and made some birdies. Birdied that hole.
"Of the support that the people here in New Jersey, New York, metropolitan area have given me over the years, today was the day that it helped the most," he said.