Phil Mickelson nightmare in US Open round one hints at mounting LIV golf pressure

McIlroy takes aim at LIV Golf defectors ahead of U.S. Open

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Phil Mickelson was left embarrassed and humiliated during the first round of the US Open as he failed to make straightforward putts. The golf icon has been under pressure all week amid the drama of the breakaway – and incredibly controversial – LIV Golf Series distracting from his attempts to win a seventh major and seal the career Grand Slam.

Mickelson has endured a torrid week at Brookline, Massachusetts where the US Open is underway at The Country Club. He has cut a forlorn figure at times, with reporters and fans constantly asking him questions related to his move to Saudi-backed LIV Golf.

The Saudi-backed LIV series is the most lucrative golf tournament in history. Its £20million prize dwarfed the £7million on offer at the Canadian Open, the PGA Tour event won by Rory McIlroy last weekend – and fans accuse Mickelson and others of willingly joining the sportswashing scheme despite the many moral questions that have arisen with the project. 

Mickelson is immensely popular but has faced immense criticism after he condemned the Saudi government for its ‘horrible’ human rights record but said he would use the prospect of LIV Golf to gain economic leverage over the PGA Tour. The 51-year-old apologised for his remarks and announced in February that he was taking time away from the game, opting out of the Masters and his title defence at the PGA Championship but revealed he will compete at the US Open and he planned to compete in next month’s Open Championship at St Andrews.

Mickelson was suspended by the PGA Tour after when he signed a reported $200 million – £163m – deal to play the controversial and lucrative tour, a move he made despite acknowledging Saudi Arabia’s many human rights atrocities. He even had to navigate a car crash interview when the 52-year-old addressed the claims of 9/11 families who wrote to Mickelson asking him to reconsider his stance. 

The US Open is a USGA event, and so Mickelson is allowed to compete despite his suspension and he is undoubtedly desperate to win the elusive major title. However, his play on the first day suggested there is plenty on his mind and the pressure could well be getting to him. 

It was a horrendous putting display from Mickelson. He had played 14 putts through six holes, including a sixth hole nightmare when he turned a birdie chance into a catastrophic four-putt. 

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Through nine holes, Mickelson was five-over par and looked to be defeated. He finished eight-over and is tied for 144th place after the horrific first round, and it remains to. Seen if he will continue to buckle under pressure or bounce back in the second round.

The US Open will be played at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts, on June 16-19 – with Canadian Adam Hadwin leading on four-under par. A dozen players in the LIV field, including Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia, Kevin Na and Louis Oosthuizen, are playing in the third major of the year after the USGA announced it wouldn’t prevent LIV players from competing.

“Regarding players who may choose to play in London this week, we simply asked ourselves this question – should a player who had earned his way into the 2022 U.S. Open, via our published field criteria, be pulled out of the field as a result of his decision to play in another event? And we ultimately decided that they should not,” the USGA said on Tuesday.

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