Phil Mickelson’s 74-shot walk around TPC Twin Cities in Blaine began innocently enough on the back nine early Thursday morning.
He smacked a mighty left-handed iron shot that screamed down the 10th fairway and settled a football field away from the green. Three strokes later, Lefty had his par and by the time he got to the 15th tee box a pair of birdies bookended a nuisance bogey.
Turns out the annoyance was just beginning.
Mickelson made a mess of his round on the revamped par-5 18th hole.
First off the tee: Splash.
Then from a penalty drop area: Splash.
Then around the green: Snowman.
“You can’t do that and compete,” Mickelson said after taking an eight on the 18th and signing his card nine holes later at 3 over, good for a tie for 133rd in the 156-player field at the 3M Open. “It’s frustrating because I felt like I was playing well, making some good swings. [Thursday] I made some terrible ones.”
It was a disappointment not just for Mickelson but for the large holiday-morning crowd that showed up before 8 a.m. to watch him play in Minnesota for the first time since dueling with Sergio Garcia in a Sunday singles match for the ages in the 2016 Ryder Cup.
On that day at Hazeltine, Mickelson drained a mile’s worth of putts, including a 25-footer on No. 18 to halve the match with an equally impressive European counterpart.
Thursday, Mickelson showed flashes with a chip-in for birdie and rolled another from 25 feet but it wasn’t enough to offset the triple bogey. “You just can’t play like that,” he said.
Mickelson’s playing partners fared better.
Tony Finau started his round after what he said was a poor warm-up on the driving range but made just one bogey in a 5-under 66. After shooting a 32 on the back nine Finau used all of his 6-4 frame to power a shot out of the deep rough on No. 6 to save par and set up a pair of birdies coming in.
“You’ve got to muster up something to play with, and I was able to find something out there and play well,” Finau said. “I wouldn’t say my comfort level’s too high; there’s water on almost every hole, but I do like the golf course.”
After last week’s breakthrough victory in Detroit as the world’s 353rd-ranked player, Nate Lashley picked up new fans across the globe. Thursday, following a whirlwind three days with appearances on national news broadcasts and the “Today” show, Lashley made two birdies on each nine to finish with a 69.
“A little tired, but getting to play with Phil and Tony gets your energy level up a little bit,” Lashley said. “It was a fun morning. You couldn’t ask for two better guys to play a round with.”
For Mickelson, it’s going to take 18 holes with a lot of red numbers Friday afternoon to have a chance at earning 36 more before heading to the British Open.
“I’ve got to go low,” Mickelson said. “I’ve got to go shoot something mid-60s just to be here for the weekend.”