- Associated Press - Thursday, June 14, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Phil Mickelson lost a ball in the trees on his first swing Thursday, hit a spectator on another and spent more time in the rough than the fairway.

Playing partner Bubba Watson looked even more lost at The Olympic Club, nearly shooting the 80 he feared he might put up early in the week.

Such lack of precision cost both dearly in the first round of the U.S. Open. Five-time Open runner-up Mickelson opened with a 6-over 76, and Masters champion Watson had a 78.

It was a stark contrast to the way the third member of the group, Tiger Woods, methodically moved from Point A to Point B in shooting a 69 on the tight, twisting Lake Course.

“It beat me up,” Masters champ Watson lamented. “It’s winning by eight right now.”

Mickelson bogeyed the first three holes.

“I didn’t play well, obviously,” Mickelson said. “You could see that.”

It started with his first swing, when he hit 3-wood on No. 9 _ his opening hole because of Olympic’s logistics. He snap-hooked it right and it quickly disappeared into the trees.

Fans gathered around one cypress and photographers took endless photos of a ball sitting in the tree like a bird’s egg. But there was no way to identify it, or even determine if it was Mickelson’s ball.

For all anyone knew, the ball could have been there since 1998, the last time the U.S. Open was played at Olympic.

Mickelson abandoned his search after 5 minutes and went back to the tee.

Joe Ogilvie was already waiting to tee off because of the delay.

“Not a good way to start the tournament,” Ogilvie said. “I’m just glad the USGA official had the foresight not to say, `Now playing his third shot ….’”

Mickelson salvaged bogey, but then couldn’t recover.

“I just let it continue,” said Mickelson, who hit eight of 18 greens in regulation and seven of 14 fairways. “Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get it stopped.”

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