Mickelson left with a hollow feeling

Today was supposed to be a day of historic importance. Of course, it still will be, just not for Phil Mickelson. Once the American won the Masters in April, following his victory at the US PGA Championship last summer, he was halfway to what was dubbed a potential "Mickelslam".

Hoylake witnessed Bobby Jones's victory in The Open during his 1930 Grand Slam season and at the same venue Mickelson was meant to join Tiger Woods as the only men to hold all four modern major titles at the same time. Could've, would've, should've.

Nothing is guaranteed in golf but after 71 holes of the US Open the dream was still alive. Six shots later it was all over after a miserable closing double bogey. But the 36-year-old is an optimistic soul and his preparations for The Open started almost immediately.

Within a week he had played his first two practice rounds and signed the Royal Liverpool Golf Club visitors' book. He returned more than a week in advance of Thursday's start. His game plan was forged with his coaches, Rick Smith and Dave Pelz. There were eight practice rounds in total, plus a Wednesday visit to Royal Birkdale for light relief.

But, as at Winged Foot, execution proved an elusive quality. An opening 69 was a plausible start but the crux came on Friday afternoon. With Woods having vaulted to the top of the leaderboard, others had to set out in pursuit. Ernie Els responded in sublime manner to get within one but Mickelson floundered.

Apart from two weeks in April, in Atlanta and Augusta, Mickelson has not been at his best this season. Yet it is when the execution is not quite right that he seems to revert to the bad old ways, taking an extra chance or two, slashing away. Pelz could be found in a quiet corner of the media centre watching a monitor and shaking his head.

Woods may have eschewed the driver this week but you couldn't get it out of Mickelson's hands. At the third, where the internal out of bounds first looms, his drive finished on the bank, just in bounds. As a lefty he had an awkward stance but got a free drop because the ball was lying, according to the American referee, "in the seam of a sod".

At the next he pulled his drive over the gallery but got another free drop from a cart path. A spectator was not happy and queried the ruling but Mickelson laughed it off. "He didn't realise the follow-through is part of the swing and was affected by the path," he explained.

But despite a fine recovery pitch he could not make the putt for birdie and at the par-five fifth he drove into the rough, hit his second into a bunker and had to settle for a par again. Worse followed when his ragged play led to bogeys at the seventh, eighth and ninth.

By this stage his most important contribution of the day came walking up the second fairway with his playing partner, Greg Owen. The Englishman almost did not tee up after his back problems returned during the warm-up on the range. Owen spent 15 minutes in the physio van and had to take painkillers. "I was always going to start," he said. "I just didn't know if I could finish." As they chatted away, Mickelson all but gave Owen the number of one of the best back specialists in America, Tom Boers. "Phil said he could not recommend him highly enough," Owen said. "I'm used to playing hurt but I thought I was over the worst. Hopefully this guy can finally sort it out." Swinging within himself, Owen actually played very tidy golf. After what he called a "silly three-putt" at the second hole, he birdied the fourth and the fifth, as well as the 10th and the 11th, where he rolled in a putt from 60 feet.

Mickelson could only look on enviously. By this stage he knew his challenge was over. "I never holed those 15-20 footers you need to do around here," he said.

While Owen birdied the 16th and the 18th for a 68 that leaves the Coxmoor man on the fringes of contention today, Mickelson had gone back to level par before his first rewards of the day. He got a four at the 16th and at the last hit a hybrid two-iron to three feet for a closing eagle.

There was a worrying moment as Owen jumped out of a bunker at the last and slipped. He got up gingerly but Mickelson told him to take his time and not worry about standing on the line of the American's putt. "I haven't played well enough," Mickelson, who carded a 73 to fall back to three under, said.

"It's a great course, a great test, a great championship, it's going to be exciting, I just wish I was part of the leaders. I'd like to do a good round tomorrow, more for self-gratification than because it's going to move me up the leaderboard. I've certainly studied the course, I just need to hit the shots."

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Sport
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Sport
premier league
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
News
people'I hated him during those times'
News
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
News
i100
News
Dame Vivienne Westwood has been raging pretty much all of her life
peopleMemoir extracts show iconic designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Life and Style
fashionAlexander Fury's Spring/Summer 2015 London Fashion Week roundup
Arts and Entertainment
Lauryn Hill performing at the O2 Brixton Academy last night
musicSinger was more than 90 minutes late on stage in Brixton show
News
i100
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
News
people''Women's rights is too often synonymous with man-hating'
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam