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Mickelson says needs better putting to win U.S. Open

By Andrew Both

PINEHURST North Carolina (Reuters) - Phil Mickelson was pleased with his long game in the opening round of the U.S. Open on Thursday, but says he needs to start making more medium-length putts to win the championship he covets over all others.

The five-times major champion needed 31 putts and three-putted once as he navigated the tricky turtle-back greens of Pinehurst's fabled No. 2 Course.

"I putted OK but didn't make any of the ones you need to make, the 15-20 footers you need to have a good round," the American told reporters after an even-par 70 at Pinehurst No. 2.

"I had a chance to get three, four, five-under today had I made some makeable opportunities. But I didn't throw anything away on the short ones."

The six-time U.S. Open runner-up, who needs to win the event to become the sixth player to complete a career grand slam of the four majors, was only two strokes from the lead with half the field back in the clubhouse.

Mickelson was generally solid with the short putts with his new "claw" grip that he began using in the final round in Memphis on Sunday.

He switched to the unconventional putting style after becoming frustrated with his putting with a conventional grip and credited caddie Jim "Bones" McKay with an assist.

"Bones noticed something, and I kind of saw it now on a replay the other day that my eye alignment has not been over the ball," Mickelson continued.

"It's been over the top of it, and that's been throwing my lines off. When I hit good putts, they're not going in because it's a distorted view. If I could fix that, you know, I don't feel like I'm hitting bad putts, I'm just missing them a little bit on the sides. I don't feel like it's far off."

If Mickelson was lukewarm about his putting, he was delighted with his driving after not missing a fairway in the opening round of the year's second major.

"The driver feels really good. I think that's the club that is going to help me play well this week. And the one club that's hurting me is the putter," said Mickelson. "So I've got to get that turned around the next couple of days."

Mickelson also spoke briefly about a New York Times report that he is not involved in insider trading in the shares of Clorox Co but is not in the clear for possible insider trading with another company.

"With an investigation going on, I'm not going to comment any further on it. But I'll continue to say that I've done absolutely nothing wrong," he said.

(Editing by Frank Pingue)

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