Don't hold this against Mickelson
DUBLIN, Ohio -- Phil Mickelson spent part of last week in Italy and France celebrating his wife's birthday, then came back to his job as a golfer this week and cited fatigue for withdrawing after a first-round 79 at the Memorial.
If you want to chuckle over the notion of someone getting burned out after a round of golf following a holiday in Europe, feel free. Lefty brought this one on himself.
But at least Mickelson admitted it.
That doesn't make it right, but it does make it easier to take. The Hall of Famer could have gone through the motions Friday morning, but figured it was best to get home and get on with fixing his psyche and his swing.
Mickelson said he over did it by playing three tournaments in a row, jetting off to Europe, cramming in a corporate outing earlier this week and then trying to play a tournament. It is fair to suggest Mickelson would be at Muirfield Village on Friday if he shot 69, but he shot 79 -- his worst score in eight years -- and struggled.
He's concerned about the upcoming U.S. Open, and at this point, majors are the big concern in Lefty's life. His ball-striking is poor, and he wants to get it straightened out with Butch Harmon. He wants to maybe get a look at the Olympic Club. So many things to do, so little time.
Three other players, Sang-moon Bae, Tom Gills and Boo Weekley, all withdrew after poor rounds Thursday. They all shot 79 or worse. If they cited injury, certainly the score was part of their pain. This happens every week on the PGA Tour.
But when it's Phil Mickelson -- or Tiger Woods, for that matter -- the level of scrutiny rises considerably. Woods withdrew during a poor final round at Doral because of a recurrence of an Achilles injury and took plenty of abuse for allegedly quitting.
Mickelson withdrew after a poor round because. well, he said he's tired. Perhaps he should not have shown up in the first place, something for which he would have been criticized, too. Perhaps he should have managed his schedule better, something he all but admitted.
It never looks good when a player withdraws because he is playing poorly, and Mickelson is no exception.
But he has not made this a habit, having not withdrawn from a tournament since the 2007 Memorial with a wrist injury. With 40 victories and four majors in a 20-year career, he has built up considerable good will.
This should not linger for Lefty.
Bob Harig covers golf for ESPN.com. He can be reached at BobHarig@gmail.com.
Lefty should have stuck it out
Let's give Phil Mickelson a nod for not doing what some other PGA Tour players have been known for: withdrawing from a golf tournament simply because they had a bad day at the office and never admitting to the real reasons behind their decisions.
After that, Mickelson's honesty about being "mentally fatigued" only goes so far.
Players of Mickelson's stature, rightly or wrongly, are held to a higher standard for several reasons, including how much of a drawing card the four-time major winner is with fans.
Many a ticket at Muirfield Village Golf Club was surely bought this week with the intention to spend a morning or afternoon following the world's most famous left-handed golfer in suburban Dublin, Ohio.
Now, after 18 brief holes and a 79 that saw Mickelson play his last seven holes in 7-over, that won't be happening.
It's somewhat admirable that Lefty is so hyperfocused on the U.S. Open that he wants to put all his attention on the year's second major in a couple of weeks. He's been runner-up a record five times at his national championship and nothing would probably make him happier, in a golfing sense, than to capture this year's Open at Olympic.
Another element to consider is, how much of a slight is Mickelson's move to tournament host Jack Nicklaus? Lefty isn't the type to try to show up the Golden Bear, and I'd even bet Lefty placed a call to Nicklaus telling him of his reasoning.
No one might understand the importance of the U.S. Open more than the 18-time major winner, but at some point, Nicklaus' annual event gets the short end of the stick when one of its biggest attractions takes an unscheduled leave even before the 36-hole cut.
Realistically, Mickelson's 79 put him in a tie for 112th out of the 116 players left in the field, so unless he went crazy low on Friday, he wasn't going to spend the weekend at Muirfield Village anyway.
With what would have been an 8:15 a.m. ET tee time on Friday, Lefty saved himself, what, roughly 18-20 hours before heading home? Surely Mr. Nicklaus deserves at least that much.
Kevin Maguire is the senior golf editor for ESPN.com and can be contacted at Kevin.Maguire@espn.com.