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Thursday marked Phil Mickelson’s 52nd birthday.
Thursday also marked his first appearance in a professional event in North America since a missed cut at the Farmers Insurance Open.
And Thursday’s first round of the U.S. Open at The Country Club was Mickelson’s first major championship start since the 2021 Open (he shot an 80 in the opening round and missed the cut).
But judging by the enormous throng of fans struggling to peek their heads above a fence to see Lefty warm up on the range, they’re excited to have him back.
Over the last several months, Mickelson’s name and the LIV Golf Series have become synonymous with one another. Without getting into too much detail, he’s somewhat become the poster child for the Saudi-backed, Greg Norman-led, breakaway league.
He said a lot, and at the same time, said nothing at his Monday press conference earlier this week regarding his move to LIV, and many began to wonder what his reception was going to look (and sound) like from the fans.
On Thursday, many didn’t seem to care much about Mickelson filling his bank account.
“Who cares? He’s getting his money. I would’ve done the same thing,” one fan was overheard saying at the range.
“No brainer,” said another in Mickelson’s range gallery.
Mickelson’s deal with LIV is reportedly worth $200 million. In the league’s debut event last week in London, he tied for 33rd in a 48-man field and made $150,000.
His crowd only got bigger when he stepped to the first tee.
Lefty’s first driver of the day was perfect, but his approach into the green was tugged left and finished underneath a spotter’s camp chair. He’d go on to make bogey.
Before you chalk his opening square up to nerves, his struggles didn’t dissipate after the first.
He made bogeys on Nos. 3 and 5 before four-putting from 12 feet for a double bogey on the par-3 sixth.
On the par-4 12th, just before his fifth shot that nearly went in the hole, we asked one more fan what he thought.
“It’s blood money,” one fan said just before the gallery erupted. “But the people love him!”
Yes, yes they do. Just look at the size of the gallery following the 52-year-old, even after he played his first 11 holes 5 over.
Fans follow Phil Mickelson down No. 12 at The Country Club. (Photo by Riley Hamel / Golfweek)
And once they all settled in around the green, it felt like Mickelson was about to close out the major championship.
Fans surround the 12th green at The Country Club. (Photo by Riley Hamel / Golfweek)
Despite his decision to move on to the LIV Golf Series, fans still love the thumbs-up-giving Mickelson.
If fans with weekend passes are hoping to see the left-handed golfer in person, he’ll need an incredible showing on Friday.