September 12 2013
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.