PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — For Phil Mickelson it was a round of nostalgia. For Tiger Woods it was one of staying relevant. Others were leading this 119th U.S. Open on Saturday, but for a few hours early on Phil and Tiger were the attractions.
Woods teed off at 2:27 Eastern time, Mickelson 33 minutes later, hours ahead and many strokes behind leader Gary Woodland. The mist that Californians call “June Gloom” hovered over the Monterey Peninsula.
They were in the tournament, but not competitively, playing a Pebble Beach course on which each had won — including, for Woods, the 2000 U.S. Open.
The day was cool. The response from the fans was warm. The golf was erratic.
Woods bogeyed two of the first three holes, even missing the fairway off the first tee with an iron, but closed strong with birdies on 16 and the famous par-5 18th for an even par 71.
Mickelson, who turns 49 Sunday, went the opposite direction, after a 1-under 34 on the front. He shot a 5-over par 41 on the back that included a triple-bogey 8 on 18 after his tee shot went into the Pacific, yielding a 4-over 75.
Woods played with KP tape on his neck, saying, “When it’s cold like this everything is achy. It’s just part of the deal.” At 43 he has gone through numerous physical difficulties, mainly back surgeries.
“I got off to a crap start,” said Woods, “and those are the easier holes. And I had to try to fight back and claw out a round today, which I was able to do.”
Still, his 54-hole total of even-par 213 was out of contention.
Mickelson, who in February won the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am for a fifth time, was at 216, and while expressing disappointment said he was happy to have had the chance to play in the Open again at Pebble, where his grandfather once caddied.
Mickelson, of course, never has won the Open, finishing second six times.
Like Woods, Mickelson grew up in southern California some 300 miles down the coast.
“As players we need to look back kind of on our career and our life, with a lot of gratitude for the fact we get to do this for a living,” said Mickelson. “And when I’m here at Pebble Beach there’s no place that I’m more grateful for the life I’ve been able to lead.
“And especially going back with my grandfather being here and what this place here, Pebble Beach, has meant to me over the years and having so many great moments, I can’t help but walk this course and feel grateful.”
The fans seemed grateful for the appearance of the two icons, giving each long ovations at 18.
Finally, when Woods was asked if he’d like warmer weather. “Oh, god, yeah,” he said. “It’s Carmel.”
More specifically it’s Pebble Beach in June.