Phil Mickelson swash-buckled his way around Augusta in 2-under, hitting just four fairways, but survived by the skin of his teeth thanks to a sharp short game. He almost snuck out of the first round at the Masters with a 3-under 69, but bogeyed the last hole to slip back into a tie for 14th, five behind the lead, and one ahead of Tiger Woods.
I can hear it already: You just slammed Woods and he’s only one behind Mickelson! Yeah, but Mickelson actually looked like he could go places on Thursday. And he just won last week. And he’s the defending champ. And Woods hasn’t won anywhere since 2009. And…
Mickelson finished dead-last in driving accuracy, and although he was able to scramble for pars every time except the last hole, his wildness forfeited several birdie opportunities, including No. 13, when he blew his drive left of Rae’s Creek and had to chip sideways out of the azaleas and back to the fairway.
“I scrambled well today to stay in, but I also let four or five good birdie opportunities slide,” Mickelson said. “I’m going to have to capitalize on those opportunities tomorrow if I’m going to go low.”
Apparently at the last minute, Mickelson balked on his two-driver strategy, using just one and sticking a 3-iron back in the bag, in case he needed it on the par-3 fourth. Christina Kim joked on Twitter:
“Apparently Phil brought out the wrong one of the two drivers today. Whoops.”
Despite hitting it all over the map, Mickelson managed to find 12 greens in regulation and took 29 putts, sinking birdies on Nos. 8, 14 and 15.
Considering Mickelson won the Houston Open in just two weekend rounds, he did fine to stay in the hunt on the first day. And you get the feeling that unlike Tiger, Phil’s game could click tomorrow.
“It’s okay, just okay,” Mickelson said. “I didn’t shoot myself out of it but I didn’t make up ground on the field the way I wanted to, so I’ve got to go do it tomorrow.”
(AP Photo/Atlanta Journal & Constitution, Brant Sanderlin)