NORTHERN PLAINS, Oregon. When Phil Mickelson stepped up to the tee box for his first ever U.S. pot as a member of the LIV Golf Invitational Series on Thursday, a fan asked, “How are you, Phil?”
“Amazing,” he replied.
The face of LIV Golf was smiling at the Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club this week, courting fans who asked for his “thumbs up” branding or were looking for a punch. And his mood didn’t change on Friday even after his second consecutive 75th in which he was 6-over in the first two rounds of the 54-hole tournament and tied for 36th.
Meanwhile, fan favorites Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka rank first and fifth, respectively, after Friday’s runoff. Johnson is tied for the lead with Carlos Ortiz (8 under) and Kepka is four runs behind before Saturday’s final round.
Mickelson, though, says he’s not discouraged.
“My game seems to be a lot better than what I’m scoring,” he said. “When I hit a lot of good shots, I make a lot of mistakes that cost me five or six shots a round, which I didn’t do when I played at my best.
“I am not discouraged. In London (the first LIV tournament) and at the US Open I bet badly. I lay very well. I feel very good with the stick.”
Mickelson has played seven rounds since his hiatus following controversial comments about Saudi Arabia, the backing nation of the LIV series. He was 10 over at the first LIV in London – his first competitive golf in over four months – and finished 33rd in a 48-man field. Mickelson then missed a cut at the US Open, scoring 11 points.
“I landed two punches (Thursday) that cost me four punches,” he said. “I had three (on Friday) that cost me six hits. It doesn’t seem far. I actually feel pretty good, but I’m not scoring yet. I have to score.”
As for his new venture, in which he was reportedly paid $200 million to join the LIV, Mickelson, predictably, was effusive in his praise.
“Based on player experience, that’s 10,” he said. “They have gone out of their way to make sure the players and fans have the best possible experience and that’s why I can’t wait to play in these tournaments.”
Mickelson went so far as to thank the three boys for coming to the event this week as he walked down the 16th fairway.
“We gave two thumbs up and knuckles up and he said, ‘Thanks for coming,'” said one excited young fan.