By Jim McCabe, Golfweek
DUBLIN, Ohio – It wasn’t the drive he pulled across the state border at the par-5 second, though that stung. Nor was it the fact that he played the last seven holes in 7 over, though it was a crusher. His round of 79 - his worst score in 43 trips around Muirfield Village Golf Club - wasn’t even it.
Instead, it was all of that piled onto a whirlwind schedule that had him entered into four tournaments in five weeks, with a 40th birthday trip with wife Amy squeezed into the mix that made Phil Mickelson take a deep breath, then offer up the white flag.
He signed his card, then withdrew from the Memorial Tournament.
“I think mentally I’m a little bit fatigued,” Mickelson said after hitting just four fairways and five greens in Thursday's opening round.
Then, citing what’s on the horizon, namely the U.S. Open at The Olympic Club (June 14-17), the left-hander conceded that he had to be “more big-picture oriented.”
It was his worst score on the PGA Tour since shooting 80 in the first round of the Chrysler Championship in November of 2003 and his first withdrawal since he cited a wrist injury for leaving the Memorial Tournament in the first round five years ago.
At that time, Mickelson said he had aggravated his wrist while hitting out of Oakmont’s ferocious rough in preparation for the U.S. Open.
This time, it’s to protect himself for the U.S. Open, though Mickelson doesn’t deny he brought much of this on himself – but he wasn’t offering apologies given the reason for the European trip.
“We had a great time (in Italy and France), but I think I probably just went a little bit overboard last month,” Mickelson said. “It has nothing to do with playing poorly and so forth, but I do think I need to get rested to play my best for the U.S. Open.”
Mickelson finished T-26 at the Wells Fargo Championship, went to TPC Sawgrass and was T-25 in The Players Championship, then finished the HP Byron Nelson Championship. What followed was the birthday celebration, then a corporate pro-am on Long Island, and one of the sloppiest rounds he’s ever played.
Given what’s ahead, Mickelson didn’t think it made sense to stick around for a second round here, and perhaps the heavy rain in the forecast influenced the move.
“I think the U.S. Open is such a mental and physical grind, you need to be sharp going in there,” Mickelson said. “I have to think about the Open and what’s best to get my best golf out there. I need the next few days to rest up a bit.”
Mickelson wasn’t the only one to exit after just 18 holes. Sang-Moon Bae (79), Tom Gillis (81) and Boo Weekley (82) also withdrew.
It's no surprise, however, that only Mickelson generated a ton of attention, and for that he apologized. He emphasized that given the host (Jack Nicklaus) and venue, he was disappointed.
“The course here is in such great shape,