Sometimes, that's mostly what it's about.
"I don't think it was the wrist affecting me, per se, as much as being off the last few weeks," he said. "I wouldn't say I was proud [of the round]. I had a pretty good game plan. This is the USGA's wet dream here. And I've got in my mind a way to shoot around par. But I didn't execute today.
"Sure, it's aggravating. Annoying, let's say. It's not like the pain was as little as 5 or 6 days ago. I couldn't hit balls Friday. I was just trying to make pars out there. Seven, 8, 9 and 10 is a stretch where guys can lose the tournament. I played them even.
"I feel like I'm still well below [what] the winning score [will be]. I'm not in a position where I have to make birdies. I just have to keep making pars. I believe I'll get better as the week goes on."
Early on, Mickelson used a hybrid club off the tee, yet still hit it into the rough, which was particularly frustrating.
"I missed a few more than I had been," he lamented. "It's OK if you miss with the driver. I didn't feel like I wanted to go after it that early, maybe jar it."
Eventually, he began finding the mowed grass, which led to some "easier" pars.
Phil nearly won this thing a year ago. Instead, he finished second for the fourth time since 1999. Injury or not, he still thinks he can be a serious factor before this one is history.
"I need one good round [today] to get me in," he said. "I fought hard to keep myself in it. That's all I care about right now.
"I'm encouraged how the last eight holes went. I thought I might have issues, but I hit it a little bit better. That's what I hope to keep doing."
For what it's worth, he thinks the winner will finish around 6-over, provided the course continues to play as it did, which, of course, it probably won't. If the conditions get harsher, make sure those insurance premiums are paid.
, on his 51st birthday, shot 71 . . . David Toms
bogeyed five of his last six holes to settle for a 72 . . . West Chester's Sean O'Hair,
who nearly won TPC and has played well the last few months, is at 73, despite a double-bogey on 18, his ninth hole. Ernie Els,
who won the first of his two Opens here in 1994, is also at 73 . . . Colin Montgomerie
, who was in the playoff in '94 and almost won last June at Winged Foot, shot 76 . . . Kevin Sutherland
was 2-under through eight and finished 4-over . . . Two-time champ Retief Goosen
had a 76 . . . Sergio Garcia
, in case anyone still cares, shot 79 . . . Only the par-5 fourth hole played under-par. The average score there was 4.974. The hardest was the par-4 18th, which played to 4.641. The par-4 ninth yielded the fewest birdies (three). *