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Published: Friday, 6/1/2007

Wrist sidelines Mickelson at Memorial

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS COLUMNIST
Massage therapist Jim Weathers works on Phil Mickelson's wrist on the 11th hole. That's where Mickelson withdrew. Massage therapist Jim Weathers works on Phil Mickelson's wrist on the 11th hole. That's where Mickelson withdrew.
TERRY GILLIAM / AP Enlarge

DUBLIN, Ohio - A golfer who didn't finish his round overshadowed a flurry of great first rounds yesterday at the Memorial Tournament.

Phil Mickelson withdrew after 11 holes, citing a left wrist injury that leaves his status for the upcoming U.S. Open in question.

A number of golfers appeared to be in Open form. Sean O'Hair played the first 13 holes in 8-under par before settling for a 7-under 65 and a share of the opening-round lead with two Australians - Rod Pampling and Nick O'Hern - at a hot, but benign Muirfield Village Golf Club.

Fifty-seven of the 104 golfers who posted scores finished under par.

Mickelson was not among the finishers after aggravating a wrist problem that first cropped up a week ago when he was practicing at Oakmont, the site of the Open June 14-17, in suburban Pittsburgh.

"It started a little bit hitting a bunch of chip shots out of the rough at Oakmont, so I kind of cooled it on that and just putted," Mickelson said. "Today, I hit a wedge on No. 2 and [the pain] shot up my arm. I kind of half-clubbed it around and on the 11th hole I tried to hit a wedge with my ball in a divot and it jarred it pretty good. With the Open in the back of my mind, I figured that was enough."

He said he had mobility in his wrist, but could not put pressure on it and was having trouble gripping the club properly.

"I don't think it's a big deal," he said. "I mean, I don't know. I've never dealt with something like this. I'm not really worried yet because there's some time before the Open."

Mickelson was 2-over par through 11 holes when he withdrew. A PGA Tour massage therapist had walked with him for several holes, working on the wrist between shots, and Mickelson said it was helping until he hit the wedge shot at No. 11.

Masters champion Zach Johnson also withdrew, citing illness after posting a triple-bogey 8 at the par-5 15th hole. He reportedly had strep throat.

Tiger Woods said on Wednesday that he had strep, but he survived the first round with a 2-under 70 that left him five shots off the lead.

O'Hair and Pampling both birdied the same four holes in a row during the middle of the front nine to make the turn with identical 31s.

"I just started hitting the ball well from the beginning," O'Hair said. "I was picking good targets and I was hitting the shots the way I wanted to."

Ernie Els, the U.S. Open champion in 1994, the last time the event was held at Oakmont, parred the first six holes and made the turn in a ho-hum 35. But he caught fire on the back, making five straight birdies starting at No. 11, to headline a group of five players at 66, one shot off the lead.

"It wasn't the perfect round of golf, but I had a bunker shot that went in on [No.] 13 for a birdie and I chipped in for a par on [No.] 17," Els said. "The conditions were perfect. I saw guys getting off to good starts, so I knew it was out there."

Pampling warned that it might not last, though.

"We had a nice day with no wind, so we could be a little bit more aggressive than usual," Pampling said. "It's still a strong golf course. Trust me, it'll get us back, I'm sure."

Contact Blade sports columnist

Dave Hackenberg at:

dhack@theblade.com

or 419-724-6398.



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