By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
ATLANTA -- It took 27 holes, but Phil Mickelson finally found some rhythm Friday at the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola.
It also helped that he made a couple of long birdie putts -- first from 19 feet on the par-4 13th, followed by a 33-footer on the next hole.
Mickelson added one more and shot a 3-under 67 to get to 2 under entering the weekend at East Lake.
"I let a number of shots go on the first 27 holes," he said. "Then it clicked right back in. Just a slight setup adjustment, and I started to feel really good with it.
"Since the British Open, this is the best I've felt with my golf swing, the best I've felt with a putter."
Entering the week, Mickelson was sixth in FedExCup points, meaning he'd need at least a little help to win the FedExCup even if he were to win the tournament.
He might have left himself too far back of leader Henrik Stenson, who is 10 under, but he said he expects to play well on the weekend.
"I was able to stop worrying about mechanics and start feeling the shots, feeling the swing, hitting shots again," Mickelson said. "That's why I'm looking forward to the next 36. I know I'm far back, but I think I'm going to make a pretty good run."
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- If Phil Mickelson felt any nerves on Thursday it wasn't because he was playing Conway Farms for the first time. In a FedExCup Playoffs event, no less.
"I actually had a war- up session that wasn't great, and I was more nervous because of that," Mickelson explained. "I was able to kind of get it turned around and hit some solid shots there at the end."
Indeeed he did. Mickelson was finally able to get things headed in the right direction with a string of three straight birdies that began at the 14th hole and left him with a 1-under 70 in the first round of the BMW Championship. He is tied for 18th and seven strokes off the pace being set by Brandt Snedeker.
"It wasn't the way I wanted to prepare for an event, having not seen a course," Mickelson acknowledged. "I wanted to get in here and play a practice round Tuesday and Wednesday, and obviously I wasn't able to do that. But Bones (his caddy Jim Mackay) guided me around here.
"I'll feel more comfortable tomorrow. I'll have to get a little bit more aggressive. I think I was a little cautious today not knowing what to expect."
Mickelson didn't get to Chicago until Wednesday night. He had been excused from the pro-am due to a family matter that he preferred not to discuss and was to attend a BMW corporate function on Thursday evening to compensate for his absence.
"Everything is fine," Mickelson said. "I'm here now, I'm ready to play. But I just needed to be a little cautious this first round before I attack it tomorrow."
Mickelson, who made four birdies and three bogeys during the first round, said his swing felt just a "little bit" off on Thursday. He missed four fairways and only hit 11 of 18 greens in regulation.
"I didn't play like I thought I was going to at Deutsche Bank after that final round at Barclays," Mickelson said, referring to a tie for 41st at TPC Boston after closing with a 65 at Liberty National. "And I didn't have a good practice session today, and it hasn't quite clicked.
"But it started to come in the last nine. I started to hit some good shots, but I don't feel like I'm sharp. I don't feel like I'm prepared, and I'm going to have to kind of play my way into this tournament because ... I didn't feel like I could attack right from the start."
At the same time, Mickelson said he doesn't feel that far off from the player who blistered Muirfield for a final-round 66 and won The Open Championship in July. How quickly he can regain that form remains to be seen, though.
"Sometimes if you make a slight adjustment and all of a sudden you just hit the ball exactly like you wanted to and it just clicks," Mickelson said. "My swing and my game does not feel far off from the levels that I was playing at this summer, but it is still a fraction off, and it just needs to kind of click.
"I'm optimistic that back nine, that it may have done that.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Phil Mickelson had to withdraw from Wednesday's pro-am at the BMW Championship but he is expected to play in the tournament.
Mickelson, who cited personal reasons for not playing on Wednesday, was replaced in the pro-am by Jimmy Walker.
The big lefthander, who ranks sixth in the FedExCup, is scheduled to tee off at 12:59 p.m. ET on Thursday at Conway Farms with Matt Kuchar and Graham DeLaet.
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
NORTON, Mass. -- How good was Phil Mickelson's pitch shot on the 11th hole Saturday at TPC Boston?
Not even he could explain it.
"I could describe it, but nobody is going to understand that," Mickelson said. "It was a really good shot."
Even when he was at his worst, Mickelson found a way to be at his best with a wild and wacky even-par 71 that included a double bogey, two bogeys and four birdies.
"That was almost me at my best, because I could have easily shot myself right out of the tournament, when I just kind of lost it there for a few holes," said Mickelson, who is 8 under for the week and five shots off the lead at the Deutsche Bank Championship. "Instead I was able to find it there at the end. I fought hard."
After a mostly uneventful start, Mickelson's round took a turn toward the weird beginning on the par-4 ninth, where he went into a hazard left but still managed to save par.
He found another hazard on the next hole -- this time to the right -- and made bogey.
And if it weren't for a tree on the par-3 11th, his ball might have disappeared into the woods and he wouldn't have been able to hit a 32-yard pitch shot from a clumps of grass that spun back to 2 feet to save par.
"To be able to spin it back from that distance and lob it, it sure looks good," Mickelson said. "It came off perfect."
The rest of his round was anything but.
Mickelson missed the green badly to the left on No. 14 and made bogey. Two holes later, he found water off the tee on the par 3 and made double.
The left-hander hit into the crowd so often, in fact, at one point NBC's Roger Maltbie said, "He's spent so much time out here in the galleries, I think he knows them all by first name now."
But in classic fashion, Mickelson saved his round with back-to-back birdies to finish, sinking an 8-footer on 17 and getting up-and-down from a bunker on the par-5 18th.
"It kept me within striking distance," Mickelson said. "If I go on and play the way I believe I'm going to this weekend I'm going to look back at those nine holes as the key to the entire tournament."
NORTON, Mass. -- For the second time this year, Phil Mickelson put the game's magic 59 number on the radar screen but ended up settling for a 63 in Friday's opening round at the Deutsche Bank Championship.
The 63 is two strokes off the TPC Boston course record and ties Mickelson's low round at this event.
Mickelson, ranked No. 3 in FedExCup points, played in the same group as No. 1 ranked Tiger Woods and No. 2 Adam Scott, last week's winner at The Barclays.
While Mickelson walked off the course as the clubhouse leader, Woods settled for a 3-under 68 while Scott struggled to a 73.
Mickelson, who shot 60 in the first round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open that he went on to win, started on the back nine and set the tone for the day with birdies on his first two holes. He went on to turn in 28 -- which matched his lowest nine ever, shot in the second round of the 1997 Las Vegas Invitational. It was the ninth time in his PGA TOUR career he has broken 30 for nine holes.
After his birdie at the 17th hole -- his eighth hole on the day -- that put him at 6 under and headed to a par-5 hole, Mickelson said he "felt like there was a chance to go really low."
After making the turn, he bogeyed the No. 1 hole after a poor gap wedge left him in the bunker, but he bounced back with an eagle at the par-5 second when his second shot landed 2 feet from the pin.
At that point, 59 was in sight. But he could parred the next five holes before a birdie at the par-3 eighth.
Mickelson said afterward that he knew TPC Boston's front side -- where he would finish -- would be harder than his first nine holes. He said he had birdied the drivable 298-yard fourth hole, he would have thought about shooting 59. But instead, his drive got hung up in the fringe around the bunker and he failed to find the green with his next shot.
"I still felt I could have shot 3 or 4 under (on his finishing nine)," Mickelson said. "... I wasn't too worried about shooting 59."
On his finishing hole, the ninth, Mickelson found trouble off the tee, his ball ending up in the thick brush and trees down the right-hand side. He managed to extract himself without a penalty stroke but ultimately dropped a shot.
That tee shot, along with his gap wedge at No. 1, were his "only two bad swings," Mickelson said.
MICKELSON'S SUB-PAR HOLES