For Phil-Jordan-Rory Trio, Fireworks of the Wrong Kind
June 14, 2018 Southampton, N.Y. By Dave Shedloski
Rory Mcilroy and his fellow competitors, Phil Mickelson and Jordan Spieth, had a disappointing Round 1 on Thursday at Shinnecock Hills.

“Crazy.”

Jordan Spieth said it all when he muttered that single word as he walked off the 13th green at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club Thursday morning.

It was a crazy morning, indeed, in the first round of the 118th U.S. Open, with winds gusting up to 25 mph and scores ballooning up, up and away. And craziest of all was the fate that befell one of the marquee pairings featuring Spieth, Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy.

The three stars, major winners all and owners of three legs of the career grand slam, endured a collective body slam in front of a swollen gallery eager to see some fireworks. Things got explosive, but not in the way anyone had hoped for or anticipated.

Mickelson, 47, the only one of three without a U.S. Open victory – though he owns a record six runner-up finishes – registered just one birdie in opening with a 7-over 77. He was group medalist, despite posting his worst opening-round score in 27 U.S. Open starts and his third-worst score in any U.S. Open round.

Spieth, the 2015 U.S. Open and Masters champion – and reigning Open Championship winner –  could not outmaneuver the putting struggles he has suffered all year and carded a 78.

Then there was McIlroy, who built a perfectly hideous snowman, an 80. Like Spieth, he posted his highest U.S. Open score. He had nothing to say after his round. None of the three felt like talking afterward, and who could blame them. They were a combined 25 over par. Each came in with designs on winning, especially Mickelson, who played splendidly in his previous two appearances at Shinnecock in 1995 and 2004.

“I’m not totally unhappy because I thought I played great, given the conditions,” Mickelson, who owns five major titles, told usopen.com while signing autographs. “I just missed too many short putts.”

The left-hander had 33 putts, which offset some fine work off the tee – he hit 13 of 14 fairways. He wasn’t crestfallen by Thursday’s struggles. “Look, if I shoot even par tomorrow, then I shouldn’t be too far out of it,” he said. “I’m hitting the ball well enough.”

McIlroy, 29, who won the 2011 U.S. Open at Congressional with a record 16-under 268, had nothing going, and he compounded his errors with some questionable strategy. For instance, after turning in 42 from the back nine, the Ulsterman decided to force his tee shot into the narrow landing area on the short first hole instead of hitting short into the meat of the fairway. His ball ended up in the right hay and he suffered his third double bogey of the day.

His struggles in the first round of the championship continued. Only once has he broken par in the opening round: 2011, the year he won.

Like Lefty, Spieth also needed 33 putts on Thursday, which seemed inevitable after he three-putted the first green, the par-4 10th. When he chunked his way to a triple bogey on the short par-3 11th, he was 4 over after two holes and endured an uphill battle the rest of the day. He played the par 3s in 6 over par.

“I just tried to do a little too much on the second hole and it kind of bit me,” said Spieth, 24, who still is seeking his first win of the season. “From there, it was just kind of a grind. Played pretty well to be even through the rest of the nine and then just didn't make very good swings. There were certainly some dicey pins, but at the same time, there were guys that shot under par. So I could have played better.”

There were countless players who could have said the exact same thing. Few expected to hear that about this trio.

Crazy.

Dave Shedloski is an Ohio-based freelance writer who frequently contributes to usga.org and usopen.com.