Mickelson races ahead of Fab Four
Phil Mickelson grabbed a piece of golf history at the British Open on Thursday.
Phil Mickelson grabbed a piece of golf history at the British Open on Thursday, capturing a share of the record for the lowest score in a major championship - and coming within fractions of an inch of taking the record outright.
Aided by birdies on 10, 14, 16 and 17 on Royal Troon's dangerous back nine, Mickelson posted a final score of 63, equaling the record low for majors. He had a curling 15-foot putt for birdie on 18 that would have given him a 62, but the ball circled the hole and then came to rest just outside it.
And, Rory McIlroy was never more thrilled to be playing the British Open.
Thursday was his first round since he won the claret jug at Royal Liverpool two years ago because he had to sit out St. Andrews with an ankle injury. And finally, he was able to talk about his birdies - all five of them - instead of jabs at Olympic golf that caused such a stir earlier in the week.
"It's nice that the tournament started," McIlroy said after opening with a 2-under 69. "I think I said all I needed to say on that matter and hopefully I can go out tomorrow and play similar to the way I did today and get myself right into contention for another claret jug."
McIlroy gave away three shots, and a share of the early lead, with two sloppy holes on the back nine at Royal Troon. But in a procession of golf's Fab Four, he made the best of the ideal conditions along the Irish Sea.
Jordan Spieth, Jason Day and McIlroy were in separate groups separated by four tee times. Spieth was heard uttering rare words - "I can't buy a putt" - on his way to a 71, while Day made it three straight majors as the No. 1 player in which he failed to break par in the opening round. He had a 73.
Favoured in all three majors this year, Day still can't seem to get off to a good start. Dropped shots on the back nine sent him to a 72 at the Masters. He opened with a 76 at Oakmont and had to play well just to make the cut. And in the ideal conditions at Royal Troon, he shot 73.
For the third straight time, he has to spend the rest of the week catching up.
He made eight straight pars on the back nine until he hooked a 2-iron into a fairway bunker, could only blast out and wound up with one last bogey. Day might be one of the few players hoping for bad weather because it might be his best way to get back into the tournament.
"I'm already missing greens anyways," he said. "And if I'm going to miss greens, I'm going to miss greens on hard days, and if I can just grind myself out and make pars, it would be great. If I can hit a little bit better tomorrow, that would be fantastic."
Spieth faced two 10-foot birdie putts on his opening holes. He missed them both, a sign of what was to come. The player known as the best putter in today's crop of players required 18 putts on the front nine - a pair of two-putt birdies, one par save and a three-putt bogey on the ninth.
He stared for the longest time at a leaderboard next to the 17th green, realizing that even par wasn't going to cut it on a perfect day as this. He then holed a 20-foot birdie putt, only to hit his drive into the gallery on the 18th and make bogey.
When asked what was wrong with his putting, Spieth smiled and said, "That's a question I almost never get asked. So because of that, I'm not thinking much of it."
He at least hit the ball well from tee to green, calling it his best since he won by eight shots in Hawaii to start the year. He made a lot of putts in Hawaii.
"I think if I make the one on No. 1, I shoot 6 under today," Spieth said