Mickelson goes into early lead


Phil Mickelson, who has been the bridesmaid five times at the US Open, has given himself yet another chance this weekend, after firing a first round 3-under par 67.

Also 3-under is the Swede Peter Hedblom, after 7 holes; and Lee Westwood is on 2-under after 7 as well.

Typical Phil, he didn’t do it in the conventional manner, flying in from California at 5.30 a.m. for his 7.11 a.m. tee time.

“I slept for about an hour on the plane, but it also gave me the chance to do my prep,” he explained to bewildered press afterwards.

 “I studied the green charts on the plane and I’d done all my work on the course a week ago. The last part heading into today’s round was to get my game sharp, to get in touch, and to get my ball striking sharp. I didn’t need any more course prep. I knew how it was going to play in all four winds. I knew what clubs I was going to hit off each tee. All that stuff was already decided. So being able to be in nice weather on a great practice facility to get my game and my touch sharp was advantageous.”

Mickelson’s 67 (four birdies and a bogey at the 11th) was achieved without a driver in his bag; which he had left behind on purpose in California. He will now no doubt sleep well, after a day which saw him start his round at 7.11 a.m. and finish a few minutes before 5 p.m., because of a three and a half hour delay in the morning, while a storm came through.

Rain delays never help major championships, and at the end of the first day of the 113th US Open, half the field (including the top three players in the world) were still on the course when darkness fell. It will almost certainly mean players like Phil Mickelson and Ian Poulter won’t finish their second rounds until Saturday morning; and yet the forecast for the rest of the week is now much better.

With no major championship held on Merion for over 30 years, no one really knew whether this course which measures less than 7,000 yards and had been softened by all the rain, would be rendered defenceless by today’s top players.

And, certainly, when Ian Poulter started his round on the 11th, and then proceeded to make three straight birdies, at the 11th, 12th and 13th, the first 62 in major championship history looked quite achievable.

But, this course fought hard all day, and the penal rough and subtle breaks on the greens, meant that only two players (Mickelson with his 67, and Colsaerts who had a 69) posted under par rounds.

Colsaerts had four birdies and three bogeys in his 69; while Sergio Garcia had a roller-coaster round 73, which included a double-bogey 6 on the 14th (when he went out of bounds off the tee) and a triple bogey 8 on the 15th.

The world numbers 1, 2 and 3, Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott were +1, -1, and -1 respectively, having only played a third of the course. They will resume on Friday, at crack of dawn.

Leaders in the clubhouse:
67 Mickelson
69 Colsaerts
70 Schwartzel, Tim Clark, Kelly, Fowler, Day
71 Bubba Watson, Dustin Johnson, Stricker, Rose, Coetzee, Hoffman, Huh, Poulter, Stallings
72 Mahan, Cink, Stefani, Nicolas Thompson
73 Watney, Casey, Siem, Garcia, Harrington, Jacobson, Kim, John Peterson, Doak


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