Phil Mickelson saw major championship history elude him at the last moment but at least has the comfort of a healthy lead going into today’s Open Championship second round.
Mickelson became the 29th golfer to shoot a 63 in a major championship and just the ninth at The Open with his scintillating opening round at Royal Troon yesterday. It gives the five-time major champion a commanding three-shot lead over fellow American Patrick Reed and Germany’s Martin Kaymer after a day of calm weather conditions and ahead of three days in which heavy rain and high winds are forecast and are likely to make low scoring far from accessible.
Yet the 46-year-old, who won the 2013 Open with a breathtaking final-round 66 at Muirfield, came off the 18th green feeling like his world had collapsed in around him after the birdie putt he saw lip out at the last denied him the major championship 62 that would have set him apart from the rest of his sport.
1. 🇺🇸 MICKELSON, Phil -8 (63)
T2. 🇺🇸 REED, Patrick -5 (66)
T2. 🇩🇪 KAYMER, Martin -5 (66)
Tomorrow = 🌧⛈🌦☔️ pic.twitter.com/QrpV6hueZ7— Rick Shiels PGA (@RickShielsPGA) July 14, 2016
“It was one of the best rounds I’ve played. I mean, nothing will match that final round at Muirfield, but it was one of the best rounds I’ve ever played and I was able to take advantage of these conditions, and yet I want to shed a tear right now,” Mickelson said.
“That putt on 18 was an opportunity to do something historical. I knew it, and with a foot to go I thought I had done it. I saw that ball rolling right in the centre. I went to go get it, I had that surge of adrenalin that I had just shot 62, and then I had the heartbreak that I didn’t and watched that ball lip out. It was, ‘wow, that stings’.
“It really stings to have a chance. It’s such a rare opportunity to do something historic like that and to, I mean, if I had just hit a weak flail-off and never had a chance and left it short, so be it. But this ball was hunting right in the centre and didn’t go. It was just heartbreaking.”
Mickelson will have to quickly get over his disappointment if he is to maintain his bid for a sixth major this weekend, starting this morning at 8.25am. The forecast bad weather may well level the playing field and he will want to try and maintain his cushion at the top of the leaderboard as long as possible.
Aside from Reed and Kaymer, who both shot 66s, there are eight players a further shot back on four under that includes defending champion Zach Johnson, fellow veteran Steve Stricker and PGA Tour heavyweights Billy Horschel and Keegan Bradley. England’s Andy Sullivan, Soren Kjeldsen of Denmark, big-hitting American Tony Finau and fellow US golfer Justin Thomas are also tied for fourth.
“One of the biggest challenges is when you shoot a round like this, you start expectations running through your head and so forth, and that’s the one thing that I’ll have to try to suppress and hold off,” Mickelson said.
“We’ll have three more rounds. We’ll have varying conditions tomorrow. It’s going to be very difficult. Changing conditions, we’ll have different winds.
“Hopefully I’ve prepared myself well enough to tackle this golf course under those conditions and shoot a good number tomorrow. A good number might be over par. It just depends on how difficult it is. But today under these conditions I was able to take advantage of it.”
Rory McIlroy’s assessment his opening two-under 69 meant he was off to a good start may have come under review by the world number four last night following Mickelson’s performance but the Irishman will not be too perturbed to start today’s second round six shots back of the overnight leader.
He had played the outward nine in a bogey-free four under par before a double bogey six at the 13th and a bogey at the par-three 14th. A bounce-back birdie at the 15th reclaimed some lost ground but he failed to improve further over the closing holes.
“I think if I would’ve stepped on the first tee and someone would have given me a 69, I probably would have taken it,” McIlroy said following his opening round.
“But if somebody had given me that score on the 10th, I probably wouldn’t have. But I knew today was a day where you had to make the most of the conditions because I don’t think we’re going to see the course like this for the rest of the week. I think the elements are going to be a bit of a challenge. But two-under par, shoot something in the 60s, it’s a solid start.” McIlroy said his double at 13 had come despite hitting “two of the best shots I hit all day” with his drive and second shot.
“It was the wrong club I hit. I wasn’t trying to bring it back into play, but I knew if I pured that six-iron, the back was going to come into play. Then I let it linger a little bit and that’s why I made bogey on 14. But I bounced back with a birdie on 15, which was nice. It would have been nice to get one of the last three. I felt like I gave myself a couple of good chances. But as I said, a 69 is a solid start and I don’t have too many complaints.”
McIlroy will tee off for his second round at 2.37pm today by when the heavy showers forecast for the early part of the day are expected to subside, although high winds are also in the offing.
“It doesn’t look very good tomorrow morning. I’m hoping some of the weather forecasts I’ve seen are right and it’s starting to clear up a little in the afternoon. But it’s the Open Championship, and you know coming in here you’re going to have to battle the elements somewhat.”
McIlroy is not alone in having a lot of work to do to keep pace with Mickelson. His fellow “big four” rivals Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth and Jason Day will start the second round with even more ground to make up. Both US Open champion Johnson and world number three Spieth are at level par while world number one Day shot an opening two-over 73.
Of the rest of the Irish contingent, two-time Open winner Pádraig Harrington is a shot behind McIlroy on one under following a 70, while 2011 champion Darren Clarke cast aside the pressures of his Ryder Cup captaincy to card a level 71.
The outlook for today is less rosy for Graeme McDowell, who will be out at 8.14am looking to improve on his opening four-over 75, while Paul Dunne shot a 77 and Shane Lowry has a real mountain to climb if he is to make the halfway cut from his starting point of seven over.
Collated first round scores in the The 145th Open Championship, Royal Troon Golf Club, Troon, South Ayrshire, Scotland (Gbr & Irl unless stated, par 71):
Phil Mickelson (USA)
Martin Kaymer (Ger), Patrick Reed (USA)
Soren Kjeldsen (Den), Steve Stricker (USA), Zach Johnson (USA), Tony Finau (USA), Keegan Bradley (USA), Justin Thomas (USA), Andrew Sullivan, Billy Horschel (USA)
Justin Rose, Shugo Imahira (Jpn), Bill Haas (USA), Sergio Garcia (Spa), Yuta Ikeda (Jpn), Rafael Cabrera-Bello (Spa), Thomas Pieters (Bel), Soomin Lee (Kor), Richard Sterne (Rsa), Henrik Stenson (Swe)
Andrew Johnston, Francesco Molinari (Ita), Adam Scott (Aus), Matt Jones (Aus), Gary Woodland (USA), Zander Lombard (Rsa), Emiliano Grillo (Arg), Vijay Singh (Fij), Rory McIlroy (NIrl)
, Kodai Ichihara (Jpn), Jamie Donaldson, Rickie Fowler (USA), Anirban Lahiri (Ind)
K.T. Kim (Kor), Alex Noren (Swe), Haydn Porteous (Rsa), Byeong-Hun An (Kor), Matteo Manassero (Ita), Branden Grace (Rsa), Bubba Watson (USA), Webb Simpson (USA), Kevin Na (USA), J.B. Holmes (USA), Justin Leonard (USA), Tyrrell Hatton, Jim Herman (USA), Kevin Kisner (USA), Ryan Moore (USA), Pádraig Harrington (Irl)
Charley Hoffman (USA), Harold Varner III (USA), Ross Fisher, Danny Willett, Thongchai Jaidee (Tha), Phachara Khongwatmai (Tha), Robert Rock, Scott Hend (Aus), Mark O’Meara (USA), Ernie Els (Rsa), Daniel Summerhays (USA), Lee Westwood, Jordan Spieth (USA), Jason Dufner (USA), Colin Montgomerie, Louis Oosthuizen (Rsa), Matt Kuchar (USA), Matthew Southgate, Kevin Chappell (USA), Darren Clarke (NIrl),
Victor Dubuisson (Fra), Dustin Johnson (USA), Ryan Evans, Miguel Angel Jimenez (Spa)
Hideki Matsuyama (Jpn), Marco Dawson (USA), Ryan Palmer (USA), Nathan Holman (Aus), Jimmy Walker (USA), Marcus Fraser (Aus), Chris Kirk (USA), Charl Schwartzel (Rsa), Nicolas Colsaerts (Bel), Greg Chalmers (Aus), Smylie Kaufman (USA), Scott Fernandez (Spa), Hideto Tanihara (Jpn), Paul Lawrie, Thorbjorn Olesen (Den), Rod Pampling (Aus), Dave Coupland, Russell Knox, Jordan Niebrugge (USA)
Steven Alker (Nzl), Brandon Stone (Rsa), Paul Howard (Gbr), Tommy Fleetwood, Russell Henley (USA), Jason Day (Aus), Richie Ramsay, Callum Shinkwin, David Lingmerth (Swe), Sang-hee Lee (Kor), Harris English (USA), Brendan Steele (USA), Mark Calcavecchia (USA), Luke Donald, Brandt Snedeker (USA), Matthew Fitzpatrick
Colt Knost (USA), David Howell, Nick Cullen (Aus), Rikard Karlberg (Swe), Robert Streb (USA), Yosuke Tsukada (Jpn), Jim Furyk (USA), Marc Leishman (Aus), Jon Rahm (Spa), James Hahn (USA), Bernd Wiesberger (Aut)
Seung-Yul Noh (Kor), Graeme McDowell (NIrl)
, Joost Luiten (Ned), Clement Sordet (Fra), Todd Hamilton (USA), William McGirt (USA), George Coetzee (Rsa), Jamie Lovemark (USA), John Daly (USA), Kiradech Aphibarnrat (Tha), James Heath, Jeunghun Wang (Kor), Oskar Arvidsson (Swe)
Anthony Wall, Satoshi Kodaira (Jpn), Stefano Mazzoli (a) (Ita), Brian Gay (USA), Patton Kizzire (USA), Fabian Gomez (Arg), James Morrison
Marc Warren, Kristoffer Broberg (Swe), Paul Dunne (Irl)
, Paul Casey, Ben Curtis (USA), Scott Piercy (USA), Yusaku Miyazato (Jpn)
Danny Lee (Nzl), Lasse Jensen (Den), Shane Lowry (Irl)
, Scott Gregory (a)
Jack Senior, Steven Bowditch (Aus)
David Duval (USA)
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved