PINEHURST, N.C. – Phil Mickelson kept waiting for his opportunity to attack Pinehurst No. 2. It didn’t come until the final hole, though.
Scores soared Saturday at the U.S. Open as precarious pin positions on Pinehurst’s domed greens kept players from being aggressive. Garth Mulroy, who finished three groups after Mickelson, was the day's first player to match par when he shot even-par 70.
Mickelson was two strokes higher, making three bogeys and a single birdie to shoot 2-over 72 and finish three rounds at 5-over 215 (70-73-72). He was even par for the day until bogeys at Nos. 14 and 16. His approach shot from a fairway bunker at the 14th plugged in a greenside bunker, and he also failed to get up-and-down from a greenside bunker at the 16th.
“Pins were very difficult. The only birdie pin I thought was 18. But the greens were receptive; it wasn't unfair,” Mickelson said. “I kept waiting. Well, I can't get to this one, I'll get to maybe the next hole. Can't get to this one, I'll get to the next hole. Finally, we got to the 18th and I'm like, ‘I can get to the pin.’”
Mickelson’s quest to complete the career Grand Slam at Pinehurst No. 2 is all but over. It’s time to turn his focus from the U.S. Open to the remainder of the season. He has yet to post a top-10 finish in 14 starts this season and ranks 87th in the FedExCup.
“It's unlikely to just turn on a dime. You have to take baby steps,” he said. "So a good step for me is a good solid round for me tomorrow. I'll play a good solid round tomorrow, not really worry about the results and see if I can finish the year strong.”
He was able to joke about his position entering Sunday at a tournament that had the potential to be career-defining.
“If I hit it better and make some putts, I think I can shoot 4 or 5 under par, end around even, finish second again,” he joked.