By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 16/06/19 1:17am
Phil Mickelson will not be celebrating his 49th birthday on Sunday with the US Open title that continues to elude him, but he lavished praise on the USGA for the course set-up at Pebble Beach.
Mickelson attracted widespread criticism in the third round at Shinnecock Hills 12 months ago when he knocked his moving ball back towards the hole to stop it rolling off the green, a move which many felt was a dig at the tournament organisers for several ill-advised pin placements.
The six-time runner-up did not give any interviews in the build-up to this week’s edition, perhaps to avoid questions on his actions last year, and he opened with a 72 before a typically-erratic, second-round 69 got him into red numbers at the halfway stage.
Mickelson was more consistent over the first half of his third round, with nine pars and a birdie at the sixth over the first 10 holes, but he dropped three shots over the next seven and then carved his drive at 18 into the ocean en route to an ugly triple-bogey eight.
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His four-over 75 dropped him back to three over and ensured he would be playing for pride on Sunday, but he had no cause for complaint over how the historic links was set-up for the tournament following several controversies in recent years.
“Certainly I’m disappointed,” said Mickelson, who will be eligible for the PGA Tour Champions by the time the US Open returns to Winged Foot next year – the scene of one of his most infamous runner-up finish back in 2006, when he double-bogeyed the last to gift Geoff Ogilvy the title.
“I felt like I played a lot better than I’m scoring, and I certainly didn’t finish this round very well. But I’m really happy that I had this opportunity this week. I’ve got to hand it to the USGA for doing a great set-up. It’s the best I’ve ever seen, and it’s identifying the best players. It’s making the players the story.
“I just think that you’ve got to give credit when they do a good job like this. They’ve done a great job, and there have been many times where one or two yards’ difference in hole location would have made a world of difference, given the conditions being so tough. And this week they’ve done a good job in doing that.
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“I think the biggest thing was pin placements, instead of putting them right on the edges they were in good spots, rewarding great shots. I can’t say enough great things about how this week has gone so far. And I’m appreciative to the effort they’ve put in and for the opportunity that I had this week.
“I’ll come out tomorrow and play as well as I can, but today was the day I needed to go low. I played well enough to do it and I had many opportunities. But I didn’t putt well, I left them short the whole time. And then I finished poorly.
“But for the most part I’ve really enjoyed this week. I’ve had a lot of fun testing my game, testing myself mentally, my physical game. And it’s been a fun challenge.”
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June 16, 2019, 7:00pm