By Steve Keating
PEBBLE BEACH, CA. (Reuters) - With a record six runner-up finishes at the U.S. Open Phil Mickelson has had his share of major nightmares but added another one to the list when he botched a 12-inch par putt during opening round play on Thursday.
Needing a U.S. Open to complete a career grand slam Mickelson is getting perhaps his last best chance to get the job done, playing on the same Pebble Beach layout he collected his 44th career PGA Tour title on in February.
The five-time major winner was unable to take advantage of near perfect scoring conditions as he plodded his way to a one-over 72, sit six back of the early leaders.
On a day of missed opportunities, the biggest came on the par four third hole when he missed a tap-in putt to the astonishment of the gallery.
"I flinched," said Mickelson. "My concentration, I should be able to tap that in."
Despite the shocking miss and some other opportunities that went a-begging Mickelson walked off the course talking up his chances of playing for a title on Sunday when he will also celebrate his 49th birthday.
Playing in his 28th U.S. Open Mickelson has not threatened since his second place finish in 2013. Since then he has not had a top 25 result.
But Mickelson says he is playing well and the opportunity is still there to win a sixth major.
"I've played this course for so many years and I know how to shoot under par on it," he said. "But today I was playing well enough to do that, and I didn't -- I hit a lot of good putts that I didn't make.
"It's not disappointing at all. You stay around par at the U.S. Open, you'll be okay.
"I just need to go out and shoot something in the 60s tomorrow and I'll be in a good spot in the weekend.
"And I'm playing well enough to do it.
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)