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Wells Fargo Championship 2021: Phil Mickelson Leads After Opening-Round 64

Tyler Conway@@jtylerconwayFeatured Columnist IVMay 6, 2021

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - MAY 06: Phil Mickelson of the United States plays his shot from the 12th tee during the first round of the 2021 Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow Club on May 06, 2021 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

It's been 27 months since Phil Mickelson won on the PGA Tour and nearly 10 months since he's even come in the top 10 at an event. 

A return to a familiar course appears to have helped to right the ship.

Mickelson soared to the top of the leaderboard in Thursday's opening round of the 2021 Wells Fargo Championship after carding a seven-under 64. He holds a two-stroke lead over Kyoung-Hoon Lee and Keegan Bradley, who are tied for second place at five under.

A group of six golfers are tied for fourth at four under. 

PGA TOUR @PGATOUR

Back-to-back birdies.<br><br>Two-shot lead for @PhilMickelson. ๐Ÿ™Œ pic.twitter.com/rzQiStdoNg

"I've had a lot of difficulty over the last couple years just being focused on each shot," Mickelson told reporters Thursday. "My mind has a tendency to wander, and I've had a hard time maintaining focus. Today was obviously a much better day. I tried a few different changes and it seemed to help, I'm gonna keep working on things. If I can just play four or five hours and be present on each shot, there's nothing physically holding me back."

Mickelson's last PGA victory came at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, a tournament he's captured five times. While he has never won the Wells Fargo Championship, Mickelson has a history of consistent success at Quail Hollow.

Golf reporter Justin Ray noted that Mickelson has recorded 284 birdies or better during his time playing the Wells Fargo, 72 more than any other golfer.

The scene was a far cry from Mickelson's mentality a week ago, when he bemoaned his lack of focus after being cut at the Valspar Championship. 

"When I get called off shots, like cell phones ringing or people yelling or something, my physical ability to refocusโ€”to back away and then refocus and so forthโ€”I'm physically not able to do it right now," Mickelson told reporters last Friday. "So I have to find techniques to be able to do that."

Mickelson entered the weekend with six missed cuts since September and hasn't finished better than 21st during the 2020-21 PGA season. His opening round saw him perform at a prime level, carding eight birdies against one bogey while averaging more than 300 yards off the tee.

With a strong contingent of the world's best golfers playing at Quail Hollow, this could be a chance for Mickelson to show he still has some quality golf left in the tank.

World No. 2 Justin Thomas is currently five strokes off the lead at two under, while world No. 3 Jon Rahm will be scrambling to make the cut after shooting five over.

Bryson DeChambeau (-1), Patrick Reed (E) and Rory McIlroy (+1) are also well of Mickelson's pace.