FARMINGDALE, N.Y. — In a hype video he posted on Instagram before the third round in the P.G.A. Championship at Bethpage State Park’s Black Course on Saturday, Phil Mickelson announced his goal for the day.
He wanted to issue 1,000 thumbs-up while on the course. Known for giving the gesture in celebration, Mickelson announced that he had been practicing his form while flexing his thumbs on the steering wheel of his courtesy vehicle. He referred to the process as thumb activation.
“As the putts go down, the thumbs are coming up,” he said.
When he birdied the second and fourth holes, it appeared Mickelson’s thumbs might get a workout. But then bogeys piled up instead. Of the 18 holes he played, Mickelson bogeyed half of them to finish with a six-over-par 76 for the day.
He considered the course’s strength.
“If you hit some poor shots like I’ve hit, it really penalizes you pretty severely,” he said.
His score was only three shots better than his worst round at a P.G.A. Championship, the event he won at Baltusrol Golf Club in 2005. Looking for answers, he noted that he might need to tweak his social media game. He had posted a different hype video on Saturday at the Masters and was not happy with that performance, either.
“It’s fun,” he said. “I just want to play better.”
New Yorkers feted him nonetheless. They remembered his near-successes on this site. In 2002, he finished second to Tiger Woods in the United States Open at the Black Course. In 2009, Mickelson tied for second in another U.S. Open. Lucas Glover claimed that trophy, and Mickelson, who has finished second in six U.S. Opens, noted that he continued to feel welcomed by the raucous crowd.
“I’ve always enjoyed playing here,” Mickelson said. “It’s a special environment. The people here are unique and have really given me some great memories and moments over the years.”
No matter how many fairways Mickelson missed, he fired thumbs-up to the crowd throughout the afternoon. They called him Filthy Phil and shouted, “We love you, Lefty!” Many more requested that he lift his black pants legs to flex his calf muscles, which gained renown recently when he wore shorts during instructional videos that he posted online. Though they asked him whom he liked in the Preakness, there was no reason to ask the same of this year’s P.G.A. Championship: Brooks Koepka had appeared to be running away with it since the first round on Thursday.
“He’s playing some remarkable golf,” Mickelson said of Koepka. “It’s not an easy test.”
With the final round still to go, Mickelson had turned his attention to another examination that looms back home in California. He noted that the grasses on the greens and fairways this week were similar to those that grow at Pebble Beach, the site of the U.S. Open next month. Mickelson has won the Masters three times, the P.G.A. Championship once and the British Open as well. At 48, his attention is focused on Pebble Beach as the site where he could to collect a sixth major title and finish the career slam. The final round is scheduled for Father’s Day, which this year is also his birthday.
“There’s not much I could do right now that would do anything to redefine my career, but there’s one thing that I could do, and that’s win a U.S. Open,” he said. “If I could do that, it would change the way I viewed my career because there are only five guys who have won all the majors. You have to look at those guys differently, and if I ever join the that crowd, it would redefine my career.”
On Saturday, Mickelson had to settle for the fans’ appreciation of him despite his repeated shortcomings during the round. As Mickelson readied for his tee shot on No. 18, a fan reminded him that he had made the cut while Woods went home early.
“Tiger who?” the fan shouted.
Mickelson drove his ball 291 yards into a fairway bunker. From the tee to his ball, he issued 34 thumbs-up, turning left and right to do so. He managed to make par on the hole.
“There’s never a wasted round or wasted shot,” he said. “You can learn on every single one of them.”
Three hours later, he posted an update on Instagram. While soaking his left thumb in a container filled with eucalyptus Epsom salts, Mickelson announced that, by his calculation, he had issued 1,397 thumbs-up.
“The round wasn’t what we wanted, but we did it,” he said. “We broke the record. We shattered it.”
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