PINEHURST, N.C. - Starting his round some 3½ hours prior to the leaders at the U.S. Open on Saturday, Phil Mickelson hoped to post a decent score and see what transpired.
The course set-up during the third round at Pinehurst No. 2 -- particularly the pin placements -- made going low quite difficult; as Mickelson finished, there was not a single completed round under par.
"It was a tough day to try to go low,'' said Mickelson, whose 2-over-par 72 left him at 215, 5 over par. And he was not necessarily bothered by it.
"Given the way the first two days played, I think that you want to have a little bit more of a sterner test. I think they probably could have put some of it in during the first two days, maybe some tougher pins. But it's tough to do that when you have 156 guys trying to get through and you could be playing back and forth on some of the greens and it could take forever.
"So I think it was good. It was hard for me because I was trying to make a move and it was hard to get birdies. But a lot of that was due to the fact I didn't hit it very well, either.''
Mickelson made some adjustments with his putting -- "I putted great-for me,'' he said -- and had no 3-putts and took just 28 overall, his lowest during the three rounds.
"The putter head went to the target a little easier,'' he said. "But I actually hit it pretty good today. I hit a lot of good putts.''
Not enough, however, to get him back into the tournament of which he had been the main focus leading up. Mickelson, who turns 44 on Monday, was looking forward to Pinehurst and the possibility of completing the career Grand Slam. To do that, he would need a victory in the U.S. Open, a tournament where he has finished runner-up a record six times.
Mickelson wondered if an under-par score was even possible on Saturday, but he said that would be his goal on Sunday as he tried to climb the leaderboard.
"If I play well, if I hit it better and make some putts, I think I can shoot 4- or 5-under, finish around even -- finish second again,'' he quipped.