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Royal Lytham’s rough puts a dent in Phil Mickelson’s British Open chances

Jonathan Wall
Devil Ball Golf

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This photo sums up Phil Mickelson's opening round. — Getty Images

Very few things scare Phil Mickelson, but when he goes to bed Thursday night, there's a good chance he'll have a few nightmares about Royal Lytham's diabolical rough.

We've seen the best left-handed golfer in the world struggle at the majors before -- the wheels came off just last month at the U.S. Open -- but it's difficult to remember the last time we really saw him struggle like he did on the front nine during Thursday's opening round of the British Open.

Going into the week, the word on the street was that the rough at Royal Lytham was going to be unforgiving. Players commented that it was some of the thickest and gnarliest grass they'd ever seen. Tiger Woods even said the bottom six inches were "nearly unplayable."

Everyone seemed to understand that going into the rough was a death sentence -- except Phil Mickelson. He received a lesson in just how treacherous it was early on, after his ball disappeared into the deep fescue on the par-4 third hole.

After asking a rules official if there was a rule about not being able to see his ball when he was standing over it (Phil was desperate), he hacked out and carded bogey. The theme continued on the par-4 seventh -- where he was forced to hack out and take double bogey -- and again on the par-4 eight, where Mickelson tried to blast his ball out of one of Royal Lytham's 206 bunkers, only to see it hit just above the lip and disappear into the high grass.

After spending what seemed like an eternity digging through the rough on his hands and knees, Mickelson found his ball but was forced to take an unplayable lie -- it was embedded in the ground -- and left the hole with his second consecutive bogey.

But Mickelson's ball wasn't the only thing that nearly disappeared on the eighth hole. His British Open hopes likely did as well, after he carded a 3-over 73 that currently has him nine shots off the pace.

While some may be surprised to see him down the leaderboard after the first round, it wasn't like he was playing at an incredibly high level coming into the week. He posted 64-65 during the second and third rounds of the Scottish Open, but the red numbers came on the heels of eight straight over-par rounds -- the worst stretch of his career.

Mickelson continues to talk a good links game and once again assured everyone that he had figured things out, but when you've spent your entire career as a high-ball hitter and you have an affinity for hitting the driver, links-style golf likely isn't in your wheelhouse.

It remains to be seen if he can make the weekend, but for the moment all Mickelson probably cares about is staying out of the rough on Friday. If he finds it again off the tee, there's a chance we could see the mild-mannered golfer turn into a raging lunatic.

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