Phil Mickelson should take redeye flights the night before his first round in a major golf tournament more often.
Despite a 3+ hour weather delay at Merion outside Philadelphia earlier today, Mickelson was able to turn in a whopping 3 under round 67 for the first round of the US Open.
I caught a video recap of Mickelson's play on the IBM-sponsored US Open website, and it was nothing short of stellar, particularly his putting and iron play approaching and in and around the greens.
Mickelson had missed his opportunity for a practice round yesterday, instead putting family first so he could attend his daughter's graduation from eighth grade out in California.
Mickelson commented after the round in a press conference that it was "the best US Open setup" he'd seen in his history with the tournament, explaining that "the par holes were difficult but allowed players to differentiate themselves simply by making par."
He also noted, however, that the "birdie holes didn't get too tricked up to make birdies impossible."
So far, Mickelson's observations seem to be spot on.
I also wanted to make further reference to the statistical analysis of the golfing action being done by IBM and the USGA.
We're only about halfway through the first round's play, and despite Phil's stellar performance after that long overnight plane ride, Merion's not giving up birdies as easily as one might have expected, especially considering the soft conditions with all the rain they've had the past week and earlier today.
The 499 yard, par 4 number 5 gave up only 1 birdie today, and is playing at an average of 4.8788 as of press time. That puts it ranked No. 1 in terms of the most difficult holes thus far.
No. 5 is a long right-to-left dogleg, which also has a right-to-left slope combined with a stream lining pretty much the entirety of the left side of the hole. Worse, it has a severely sloped green, making par (obviously, as you look at the hole average) a very good score on this hole.
No. 18, a 500-yard par 4, is a close second so far in terms of scoring difficulty, ranking at 4.6909 average score. It also has only given up 1 birdie as of this writing. It was expected to play as one of the hardest holes of the week, especially considering the tee shot is a semi-blind stroke over the famed quarry to a landing hill that stretches downhill and right-to-left at the 300-yard mark. It necessitates a left-to-right shot, but that shot has to get over the quarry to give the player a reasonable shot at par or better, especially considered the "domed" green.
The No. 1, No. 2, and No. 3 ranked players in the world -- Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, and Adam Scott -- are yet to tee off, so it will be interesting to see how the conditions might have changed through the day in time for their estimated 4:44 p.m. ET tee time.
More details and statistical analysis as play continues and my schedule permits!