By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Phil Mickelson generally doesn't touch a club the first week after a major championship. When he does get back on the range, he's looking to regain he feel he needs to maneuver shots around the course and his touch around the green.
Sometimes, Mickelson, who finished a disappointing 54th at the Masters two weeks ago, finds himself fighting to find his game again. But there are other times when it happens fairly seamlessly -- like it did on Thursday when Mickelson shot a 68 during the first round of the Wells Fargo Championship.
"When I picked up a club a week ago and started playing, I was playing really well," he said. "... I wasn't trying to fix anything. I was just kind of swinging the club, and I ended up playing well at home and it kind of carried over into this week."
Mickelson's round of 68 on a Quail Hollow course where he's posted six top-10 finishes in nine starts left him one shot off the lead when he finished shortly after noon on a drizzly Thursday. He actually was tied for the lead until he bogeyed No. 8, his 17th of the day, after hitting his drive next to a tree trunk.
Mickelson hit another errant drive well right at the ninth hole. But he hit his second shot low and under the trees, finding the fairway where a well-played wedge left the big lefthander with a 20-footer he made to save par.
"I got just a little bit tired, I think, because I quit on a couple of those swings and pull hooked two drives on 8 and 9 and put myself in binds," Mickelson said. "I was unfortunate on 8 to be right behind the trunk. If I had been a few inches either way I probably would have been fine getting it on the green. But it was a bad drive that put me there."
Mickelson, who won the Waste Management Phoenix Open earlier this year, didn't hit a lot of fairways, six to be exact, and just 10 greens in regulation. But his putter was extremely obedient and as he stayed in the mix on an unseasonably chilly day with just 25 strokes on the greens.
"Early in the morning when it was a little colder and there was a little drizzle and wind, it was difficult," Mickelson said. "As that went away, the scores got a lot easier. This is a great golf course in that there are some really good, easy birdie holes, and there are some really hard pars. ...
"Fortunately, when it was tough conditions, I played the harder holes and I was able to make pars and had the opportunity on the easy holes to make birdies. But this is a great mixture of holes here."
Mickelson's best finish at Quail Hollow was runner-up to the red-hot Rory McIlroy in 2010 when the Northern Irishman closed with a sizzling 62. He's finished fifth or better four times.
"I really like this golf course," Mickelson said. "I think from tee to green it's one of the best I've ever seen. ... I've had some good finishes, but you're right. I haven't been able to break through and get a W. This year, hopefully, it will be different because I am playing well and I do really enjoy it here."