‘I’m not discouraged’: Phil Mickelson remains upbeat after tough start to his LIV Golf career

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NORTH PLAINS, Ore. — As Phil Mickelson approached the tee box Thursday for his first shot on U.S. soil as a member of the LIV Golf Invitational Series, a fan asked: “How you doing, Phil?”

“Awesome,” he replied.

The face of LIV Golf has been all smiles this week at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club, accommodating fans asking for his trademark thumbs up sign or looking for a fist bump. And his mood didn’t change Friday even after a second consecutive 75 that has him at 6-over for the first two rounds of the 54-hole event, tied for 36th.

Meanwhile, fellow fan favorites Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka are first and fifth, respectively, after Friday’s second round. Johnson is tied for the lead with Carlos Ortiz at 8 under, while Koepka is four strokes back heading into Saturday’s final round.

Mickelson, though, says he is not discouraged.

“My game seems a lot better than I’m scoring,” he said. “Hitting a lot of good shots, then I’m making a lot of mistakes that are costing me five or six shots a round that I haven’t done when I’m playing my best.

“I’m not discouraged. I putted terrible in London (the first LIV event) and the U.S. Open. I’m putting really well. I feel really good with the putter.”

Mickelson has played seven rounds since his hiatus after making controversial comments about Saudi Arabia, the country backing the LIV series. He was 10 over in LIV’s inaugural event in London – his first competitive golf in more than four months – and finished tied for 33rd in the 48-man field. Mickelson then missed the cut at the U.S. Open at 11 over.

“I hit two shots (Thursday) that cost me four strokes,” he said. “I had three (Friday) that cost me six strokes. It doesn’t feel far off. I actually feel pretty good but I’m not scoring yet. I got to score.”

As for his new venture in which he was paid a reported $200 million to join LIV, Mickelson was effusive about in his praise, as would be expected.

“From a player experience it’s a 10,” he said. “They have done everything imaginable to make the experience for the players and the fans as great as it can be and because of that I can’t wait to play these events.”

Mickelson went as far as thanking three young boys for coming to this week’s event as he walked down the 16th fairway.

“We got two thumbs up and knuckles and he said ‘thanks for coming out,’ ” said one young excited fan.