Mickelson shoots 63 to lead British Open
TROON, Scotland -- Phil Mickelson charged up the leaderboard at the British Open on Thursday, grabbing the first-day lead and a share of the record for the best score in a major championship.Aided by birdies on 10, 14, 16 and 17 on Royal Troon's ...
TROON, Scotland - Phil Mickelson charged up the leaderboard at the British Open on Thursday, grabbing the first-day lead and a share of the record for the best score in a major championship.
Aided by birdies on 10, 14, 16 and 17 on Royal Troon’s tricky back nine, the 46-year-old American posted a 63, equaling the record low for majors first set by Johnny Miller in the 1973 U.S. Open.
Mickelson came within a fraction of an inch of breaking the record outright. His curling 15-foot putt for birdie circled the hole on 18 before settling just outside it.
That was one of the best rounds I’ve ever played yet I want to shed a tear now,” Mickelson, the 2013 British Open winner, told reporters. “That putt was an opportunity to do something historic. With a foot to go I thought I had done it. I saw that ball rolling right in the center, I went to go and get it, I had that surge of adrenaline that I had just shot a 62 and then I had the heartbreak that I didn’t.”
It was still good enough for an 8-under-par effort and a bogey-free round, and put him three shots ahead of compatriot Patrick Reed and Martin Kaymer of Germany.
“I didn’t take on a lot of trouble today and was able to get hot with the putter,” the left-handed Mickelson said.
All three contenders seemed to be well-positioned for today’s second 18 holes, but Kaymer was not getting ahead of himself.
“It’s only a quarter of a marathon,” he said. “It’s a good start. It’s a very good start, but we’ll see how the weather will turn out (today) and then play another good round. That’s all you can do.”
Reed’s early 66, a round punctuated by an eagle from the fairway on the par-4 third hole, set the clubhouse lead for much of the day. He has no intention of changing his approach, although the weather is forecast to turn wet and cold after Thursday’s warm sun and gentle winds.
“My game plan is to play to certain areas on each hole,” he said. “I’m not really going to stray too far away from that. It’s just going to probably determine what club off the tee. Some holes today might have been a 4-iron, but if the wind is howling, it might be a 2-iron ... you just never know.”
Mickelson’s attentions also turn to today when rain and howling winds are forecast.
“One of the biggest challenges is when you shoot a round like this you start expectations running through your head and that’s the one thing I’ll have to try to suppress,” he said. “We’ll have different winds (today). Hopefully, I’ve prepared myself well enough to tackle this course under those conditions.”
Just behind Reed and Kaymer were a shifting cast of players who kept threatening and then falling back throughout the day, making 4-under a bar that was hard to clear.
Rory McIlroy and Bubba Watson were among those who crept up the leaderboard and then retreated.
McIlroy double-bogeyed the 13th to drop back from 4-under. Watson fell farther and faster: he was leading the championship at 5-under until he triple-bogeyed the short eighth, known as the Postage Stamp.
Reed’s eagle showed early on that it was possible to jump in the right direction, too.
Former champion Louis Oosthuizen emphasized the point when he aced the 14th hole, his tee shot taking two hops and diving out of sight, helping him to finish with a 71.
The day began with local favorite Colin Montgomerie hitting the opening drive, his first appearance at the British Open in six years and what may well be his last.
He carded a double bogey on the first hole after finding one of Troon’s deep greenside bunkers. But he took one shot back with a birdie on the third and another on the fourth.
The Scot narrowly missed a third straight birdie on the fifth, then made one on the sixth. On the Postage Stamp, his tee shot landed within 6 feet of the pin. He made that birdie and added a fifth on the ninth to tie for the lead at 3-under.
He fared less well on the back nine but still finished at even-par.