WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS - Phil Mickelson outdid himself Thursday in the first round of the Greenbrier Classic, and it wasn't a good thing.
Far from it.
The sixth-ranked player in the world put his large gallery on an emotional rollercoaster, staying at even through 16 holes. He smacked a 342-yard drive on the seventh, chipped in for a birdie on the ninth and reached the par-5 12th in two en route to a birdie.
Then he pulled his drive on the par-5 17th into Howard's Creek, and everything fell apart.
A gruesome "snowman" triple bogey and a no-excuse bogey on No. 18 later, Mickelson had to sign for 4-over 74.
In his five mostly futile rounds on the Old White TPC course, this was his worst round yet. And the 17th was the worst hole yet.
"I felt like I was playing really well heading in here, and I don't play this course well," he said. "I don't know that the reasoning is, it's just given me problems the past few years."
Bubba Watson appeared headed for disaster from the opening drive, but regrouped and finished with a solid 2-under 68 to lead the all-lefty trio that included Mickelson and Ted Potter Jr. Unlike Mickelson, Watson birdied the 17th to make his first Old White round a modest success.
Potter, the 2012 Greenbrier champ, fired a 69. His mostly solid round was sullied by a double bogey on the par-3 eighth.
But that wasn't as nasty as Mickelson's 17th.
He started the 594-yard hole by pulling his drive into the creek, which not only gave him a penalty stroke, but he had to march way back to make his drop, based on where the ball entered the hazard. As he was hitting his third shot, he was 401 yards away.
His fourth shot went left into a greenside bunker, and he overshot the hole by 32 feet on his sand shot. He missed that putt, then muffed a 6-footer coming back.
On the 173-yard 18th, he missed the green right, chipped up and missed a 71/2-footer for par.