Phil Mickelson will need to mount a sizable comeback over the next three days to contend at the 2016 PGA Championship after posting a one-over 71 in Thursday's first round at Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, New Jersey.
It's a frustrating start for the 46-year-old American star. Not only is he coming off a second-place finish in the British Open in his last start, but he also earned his only PGA Championship triumph on this very course in 2005.
Let's check out how Lefty's opening round played out Thursday:
|Phil Mickelson at the 2016 PGA Championship: Round 1|
|PGA.com; Started On Back Nine|
And here's an updated look at the tournament leaderboard on Day 1:
Mickelson is less than two weeks removed from his memorable Sunday duel with Henrik Stenson at the Open Championship, which resulted in the Swede earning his first major title. Lefty said this week that seeing that opportunity slip away is going to linger, per Steve DiMeglio of USA Today:
I think it's one of those things where I'll look back over time and my disappointment will probably increase, because I think it's the first time in my career that I have played to that level of golf and not had it be enough to win a tournament. That's a disappointing thing because I would have loved to have added another Claret Jug.
The five-time major champion had played terrific golf all week at Royal Troon Golf Club in Scotland. He nearly set a new major record with a 63 in the first round and closed with a 65. Stenson was simply unstoppable as he drained putt after putt during their Sunday battle, though.
Mickelson struggled to find a similar rhythm throughout most of Thursday's round. The confident play off the tee and the laser-guided approach shots were notably absent, as he spent a lot more time trying to grind out pars than staring down birdie putts until the latter stages of the day.
It's unfortunate he couldn't get anything going early because the crowd wanted to erupt. There was a sense he could have started to generate the types of roars usually reserved for Tiger Woods if Mickelson came out and knocked home a few quick birdies.
Ashley Mayo of Golf Digest noted the love from the crowd:
Doug Ferguson of the Associated Press passed along another example:
Instead, he could muster only five pars and two bogeys over the first seven holes. Things got even worse on the final two holes of the back nine, which are both par fives. Anybody hoping to win this week must take advantage of the scoring opportunities they present.
Mickelson carded a par on the 17th and then made a mess of the 18th, finding just about every landing spot other than the fairway on his journey to the green. PGA.com shared a look at his only solid shot of the hole, which prevented the issues from getting even worse:
After another bogey on the second, he finally posted his first birdie of the round at the third. He showed a glimpse of the play that fans witnessed a few weeks ago, finding the fairway off the tee, hitting a good approach and knocking home the mid-range putt.
PGA.com highlighted Mickelson sneaking the putt in the side door and giving a little fist pump:
It began a more promising stretch of play for Lefty. He put up three birdies over a five-hole stretch, including back-to-back textbook efforts on the sixth and the seventh. It wasn't enough to complete erase the early errors, but it helped salvage the round.
The PGA Championship captured the shot to bring him back to one over:
He wrapped up the round with a pair of routine pars to finish an otherwise up-and-down day.
Looking ahead, the sluggish start puts him under immediate pressure heading into Friday's round. While it's unclear where he'll sit in relation to the lead—and more importantly the cut line—with the afternoon wave of play still to come, he'll need to play better than he did in Round 1.
The good news for Mickelson is that he did start playing better over the final handful of holes. It should give him at least some positive vibes as he tries to go low in Round 2 and get himself back into the mix heading into the weekend.
Alex Miceli of Golfweek provided some reaction from Mickelson after the round:
Although things didn't go nearly as smooth as he hoped, it didn't cause him to lose his sense of humor. Andrew Beaton of the Wall Street Journal noted the fan favorite pushed a small stool back in front of the media podium before leaving the stage for Rory McIlroy.
"Let me put this back for Rory," Mickelson jokingly concluded.
Making three birdies over the final seven holes makes it easier to have some fun. McIlroy wasn't as fortunate as he'll head into the second round at four-over par.