Putting woes sink Mickelson

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — Something was missing from Phil Mickelson's card — a circle.

Mickelson shot a birdie-free 75 Thursday, his first round without besting par since the 2009 Shell Houston Open.

And he had not played a birdie-free round at the U.S. Open since the opening round of the 2007 event at Oakmont, where he missed the cut.

"I thought I played pretty well, but I putted horrific," he said. "Making a bad swing here or there is part of the U.S. Open, but to miss those five-footers and a couple of 10-footers is very frustrating."

Mickelson's struggles surprised him because he had good practice sessions last week with putting guru Dave Stockton.

"The ball is not starting on my line, so there's something a little off," he said.Maybe, but Mickelson has won only once on tour after opening with a 75 or higher. That victory came at the 1993 Buick Invitational.

Birdie: K.J. Choi. On Monday, Choi described his modest expectations: "This week my goal is even par." That seemed out of reach after Choi started bogey, double-bogey. But then the burly Korean went on a birdie binge, playing his next 12 holes in 6-under par. His final tally: a 1-under 70. "As the holes went by, I found my rhythm," he said.

Bogey: Hunter Mahan. One ESPN.com writer rated him as the best player in the field, given that he leads the PGA Tour in total driving and ranks high in greens in regulation. So much for the stats. Mahan endured a miserable first round, making only one birdie while shooting a 7-over 78. Other awful starts from tour stars: Geoff Ogilvy (79), Camilo Villegas (78), Stewart Cink (76).

Birdie: Bo Van Pelt. The Indiana native, who has four top-five finishes in his last six starts, closed birdie-birdie to shoot a 1-over 72. After starting the day on No. 10, Van Pelt made bogey on the 208-yard 17th after figuring the green was unhittable. He aimed for the front bunker and landed in it but could not get up-and-down. "I hit it where I wanted to," he reasoned.

Bogey: Ryan Moore. He took way too much club on No. 17 and hit his tee shot about 40 yards long, near the famous sign post on the 18th tee box. After taking relief, he played his second shot with one foot on the wall that protects the hole from the ocean. Moore pitched back into a bunker but got up-and-down for an adventuresome bogey.

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