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Big crowds, bad golf and wardrobe questions: A day with Tiger, Phil and Rickie

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Tiger believes he shot better than his score (0:56)

Tiger Woods says the way he was hitting the ball he should have scored in the 60s. (0:56)

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Phil Mickelson shot a 79 in the first round of The Players Championship on Thursday afternoon, but that wasn't the reason people in the gallery were giving him a hard time.

It was the way he looked while he was doing it.

Mickelson recently signed an endorsement deal with Mizzen+Main to wear the company's apparel on the course, and Thursday he went with a grey, long-sleeved, button-down option for his round with Tiger Woods and Rickie Fowler. Which prompted the following from the gallery:

"He must have a meeting after this."

"At a used-car lot."

"I like that collar, Phil. All day, baby. All day. I see you."

One big topic of conversation in the gallery around Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, and Rickie Fowler: Mickelson's long-sleeve shirt. "I like that collar, Phil," from someone on the No. 9 tee box.

Michael DiRocco, ESPN Staff Writer100d ago

And, in what was the most succinct and biting critique:

"Man, that's awful. Just awful."

Mickelson had some fun with some of the comments from the gallery -- he particularly liked the collar comment -- but spent a few minutes defending his fashion after his round.

"I actually really like it," Mickelson said. "I think nobody does kind of slightly overweight middle-age guy better than me and this says exactly who I am.

"I think it says that if you can play golf at the highest level, imagine how comfortable it is in the office."

Giving Mickelson a hard time about his shirt was as rowdy as the gallery got Thursday at The Players Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass. What was billed as a supergrouping that featured three of the biggest draws in golf -- Mickelson, Woods and Fowler -- didn't exactly give the large swath of fans that followed them for 18 holes much to cheer about. They shot a combined 9-over par.

It was still a ridiculously large gallery for a Thursday afternoon, though. The spectators were 10-plus deep when the group teed off at 1:52 p.m. ET on No. 1, which meant that anyone who wasn't in place at least 30 minutes before had trouble seeing any of the golfers on the tee box for their first swings of the day.

THIS is what happens when you put the three most popular golfers in the world together! Somewhere in there are Tiger, Phil, and Rickie.

Michael Collins, ESPN Senior Writer100d ago

"Man, looks like the whole world is here," one late-arriving fan grumbled.

Not quite, but Fowler said it certainly was one of the largest galleries to have watched him play a round.

"It's definitely up there," Fowler said. "You look at majors, in contention on Sunday, they're going to be around. But as far as a mass group actually following your group the whole way around, that's up there as one of the biggest.

"Really, any time you play with Tiger that's going to be up there with one of the biggest groups you play."

It certainly was on the front nine. The crowd swelled around the tee boxes and greens and moved on quickly after the group finished the hole. Fans were six and seven deep around the green at No. 4 when the group putted out. Once the players left the green, only 40 people stuck around to watch the next group -- Andrew Landry, Austin Cook and Xander Schauffele -- hit into the green.

What does the crowd look like for the group after Tiger, Phil, and Ricky? I'm sure Austin Cook, Andrew Landry, and Rookie of the Year Xander Schauffele are enjoying the peace and quiet!

Michael Collins, ESPN Senior Writer100d ago

One of those people was Michael Adams, who was up from the West Palm Beach area to watch the tournament. He wasn't following the Woods-Mickelson-Fowler group, instead opting to stick at the green at No. 4, and he had been there for several hours.

"If you follow [Woods] there's 15 people in front of you," Adams said. "The strategy is if you want to see them, it's best to be a hole or two ahead and let them come to you."

Woods eagling the par-5 ninth -- which resulted in a small fist-pump -- earned the biggest roar of the day, but, surprisingly, the gallery dropped off considerably in size for the first half of the back nine, and things quieted down until the group reached No. 16.

The three-hole finish is always the loudest part of the golf course. It was no different Thursday. The biggest reactions were the groans when Mickelson hit his tee shot on No. 17 into the water and when Woods did the same on No. 18.

Other than one fan yelling that he loved Fowler -- which drew some quick looks from security -- it was a relatively uneventful finish. By then, people had mostly laid off of Mickelson's shirt.

"They were great," he said.