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Phil & Bubba Struggle
Playing in the marquee threesome with Tiger Woods, both Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson experienced a tough opening round of the U.S. Open.
Starting on the par-4 ninth hole on the Lake Course at Olympic Club in San Francisco, Mickelson lost his drive in a tree and, after not being able to find it, trudged his way back to the tee to hit another ball. The four-time major champion managed to bogey the hole, but it was one of seven on the day against a single birdie en route to a 6-over 76.
Watson, the reigning Masters champion and the only player capable of winning golf's Grand Slam in 2012, was even worse, posting seven bogeys, a double-bogey on the par-4 18th, and a birdie for a 78.
Woods, meanwhile, played well, posting a 1-under 69 to soar up the leaderboard Thursday.
After signing their cards, Mickelson and Watson - who will be paired with Woods again Friday - met with reporters and talked about what went wrong. Here are the transcripts from their two separate interview sessions.
Bubba Watson Interview
Q. Tough day?
BUBBA WATSON: I was a little off here and there. First hole got a bad lie. Couldn't move it out of the well number nine hole, but our first hole of the day I couldn't even move it to the fairway. Then I hit a bad swing on the third. What is that, No. 11. Bad swing there for a quick bogey. Then on 18 I double bogey cost me a lot. Club got twisted, club on the chip got twisted and I got an awkward spot there and missed the putt. So a quick double there. A quick 5 over. Even with a birdie. Just couldn't get anything going. Never got any rhythm just everything was just a little off.
Q. Looked like you and Phil were both struggling. Tiger obviously was pretty steady?
BUBBA WATSON: He played pretty good. Yeah. Tiger, that was the old Tiger. That was beautiful to watch. That's what we all come to see. That's what we all want to watch and that was awesome to see him strike the ball look. He made a couple bogeys but under par on this golf course is pretty good.
Q. What do you think about that long par 5, only you tried to go driver?
BUBBA WATSON: 6, I didn't like it today. I made a six. If I birdie it tomorrow I love it, because at least I'll be here tomorrow.
Q. How far did you have?
BUBBA WATSON: I wasn't going for the green. I was just trying to get it somewhere down there. Because that pin, I was trying to slice it over to the right, or over to the left, because that pin is immaterial possible to get at. I hit a sand wedge out of the rough to the center green where trying to play smart and ended up off the green off to the side, so. It's kind of a difficult shot.
Q. What makes the tee shot on 7 harder than the others?
BUBBA WATSON: What hole is 7? Short par 4? Well because the green is not playable. When you hit it, if you hit it in the left, had you if you hit tonight left you can't stop to know the green. So everybody's trying to hit it right. Sometimes just because it we're hitting a driver or hitting a wood, we're not going for the green. We're trying to go to one side and so that's what we were trying to do is everybody was trying to keep it the right so you could have it back up into that hill back up into that little mound on the green there so we can have a shot.
Q. Thoughts on the golf course overall?
BUBBA WATSON: It beat me up today. It's winning by, it's beating me by eight right now.
Q. Is it a good golf course for the championship?
BUBBA WATSON: Yeah, just not good for me. It's a lot better than I am. That golf course is too tough for me. But we got another day to try to fit and but there's you're always going to have guys that shoot low. Tiger Woods is always going to shoot low. Other guys will play good and Tiger going to play good.
Q. What were the crowds like? Augusta type or different?
BUBBA WATSON: They were like a Major. Big crowds, lot of people. Everybody cheering for everybody. Everybody pulling for good shots. That's what you want. You want a major championship. Everybody's looking for good shots. They understand out of the rough to hit it 30 feet close to the hole is a good shot. They cheered for that. That was the old Tiger.
Q. What specifically did you see that made you think that?
BUBBA WATSON: His swing. He hit every shot shape he was trying to hit. I didn't see any bad swings. I didn't see any bad shot really. He hit every shot, he shaped it the way he wanted to shape it. He played pretty good.
Q. Was it hard not to get caught up in what he's doing, obviously this is your round you want to get your game going in the first round, but to see him?
BUBBA WATSON: We're not watching what anybody else is doing. I'm struggling on my own. I don't need to worry about anybody else. You just know at the end of the day he had a red number by his name and I had 8 over. At the end of the day I know he played pretty good.
Q. How did your strategy of hitting bomb drivers work having shorter shots in?
BUBBA WATSON: I shot 8 over. So not very good.
Q. How does the rough play from with short irons? Is it manageable?
BUBBA WATSON: I shot 8 over, so not very good. You could answer these yourself.
Q. After the Masters win, people looking for maybe a real good U.S. Open for you. Is it doubly disappointing to start off like this?
BUBBA WATSON: It's, yes, it's disappointing starting off like this doesn't matter what tournament. I missed the cut at Memorial. The golf course, it's a tough golf course. It's very tough. For me it's obviously not good for me, I shot 8 over. But it's one of those things. It's just every year we're going to play a different golf course, a different U.S. Open venue. So I've got to just come out and try to play it. Obviously it beat me today.
Q. If this is the old Tiger, what does that mean for everyone else?
BUBBA WATSON: Today he was just the old Tiger. It's just one of those things. He's won twice this year, so he's doing pretty good.
Phil Mickelson Interview
Q. Rough start right from the first swing, I guess?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, it was a I didn't play very well, obviously. You could see that. I fought hard there for a while trying to keep it a few over. 3 putting 4 really hurt because I probably tried to get a little aggressive, I felt like I needed one birdie there and got a little aggressive and ended up 3 putting. But it was a tough day when you play it the way I did.
PHIL MICKELSON: I hooked it, I was trying to make sure that I hooked it into a slice wind and I pulled it over into the trees and it must have stayed up there, because nobody ever saw it or heard it come down. I started off with bogey, I mean I made a pretty good bogey thereafter. I just let it continue, unfortunately. I wasn't able to get it stopped.
Q. The second shot on your second hole, you seemed like you were in a decent position and then something happened?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, it's sometimes a tendency that I'll have in a U.S. Open. I'll make tentative swings because of what could happen as opposed to making aggressive, confident swings. I hit a very poor wedge there into a bunker and didn't get up and down.
Q. You're obviously looking for something as you're trying to get from point A to point B and find something that you can work with, how many different things went through your head to say maybe I can try this or maybe I can do that?
PHIL MICKELSON: Right around 18 and 1 I started to hit it a little bit better. The score didn't really stay great but I started to hit it a little bit better. I've got a tough challenge just to get to the weekend tomorrow. Unfortunately. But I think that we don't get to see or have the opportunity to test ourselves under such a difficult condition so I'll go out tomorrow and see if I can shoot something under par. I think that it will be kind of have to put this round aside for now and see if I can just play one round under par and maybe that will get me to the weekend.
Q. Did you know what you wanted to try and change?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think so. I'm going to go hit some balls. I think I have an idea of what I'm trying to do now.
Q. What are your thoughts on Tiger round, 1 under, pretty solid?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, he struck it really well. He's playing really well. Had really solid control of his flight, trajectory, the way it occurred, it was impressive.
Q. You played well here, top 10 in '98, relatively, were you, did you know what to expect out there and is this as tough a U.S. Open course as there is?
PHIL MICKELSON: As there is? I don't know comparatively, but it's a very difficult challenge and if you have great control of your ball flight, of your game, you can shoot a number around par and under par. But if you play like I did and you start missing it off the tee and 3 putting, you're going to shoot a high number like I did.
Q. How difficult was it for you when you start going over par for to stay within the game plan and to stay conservative and just get it in the middle of the green?
PHIL MICKELSON: It's a different mindset here knowing this you're unlikely to get birdies and get shots back that you're just trying to make pars after you make some bogeys. That's a difficult mindset to change. For awhile there I was able to hang tough and when I tried to force a birdie on 4 I ended up making bogey.
Q. The 10-shot rule has been eliminated. Were players given notice of that on the cut change?
PHIL MICKELSON: Honestly I haven't looked. If there might be a note or something, I don't know. I haven't really looked at it.
Q. Do you have any issues or comments about the course setup?
PHIL MICKELSON: It's a very challenging test. I think that if you play it effectively, if you strike it well and control your ball flight the way Tiger did, the way a couple other guys did you can shoot par or better. We don't get a chance to play under these conditions very often, so tomorrow I'm going to try to see if I can just shoot around under par. That will be a good challenge for me. I got to kind of wipe this round out. I can't really think about the lead or anything I just got to make the cut right now and to do that I got to shoot something under par.
The transcripts for the above interview are courtesy of ASAP Sports.