Golf: Mickelson fired up in return
By Doug Ferguson
MEMPHIS, Tenn. ó Phil Mickelson wasted no time firing up fans with birdies on the opening two holes. Then came a sliced tee shot into the water and a nearly four-putt green. He birdied two of the last three holes.
A typical round for one of golf’s most unpredictable stars.
Returning to work for the first time since disclosing last month that his wife has breast cancer, Mickelson got off to a solid start in the St. Jude Classic with a 2-under 68 that left him four shots behind Brian Gay.
Mickelson wore a pink ribbon stitched into the side of his white cap and at times looked fatigued.
Jose Maria Olazabal, a two-time Masters champion recently elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame, was the day’s surprise. Still coping with arthritis pain, the Spaniard shot a 66 to finish in a group that included Rich Beem and Graeme McDowell.
Under heavy clouds that brought brief showers midway through his round, Mickelson was easy to spot because of the some 750 fans following him ó one man dressed all in pink.
John Daly’s comeback was for vastly different reasons, and the result not quite the same.
He played on the PGA Tour for the first time since a six-month suspension for off-course activities that brought unwanted publicity. Daly opened with eight straight pars and a birdie, but his putter failed him miserably. He followed with three straight bogeys for a 72.
“Probably the worst I’ve putted in five years,” Daly said, wearing a neon green shirt that matched his argyle pants of green and yellow.
He offered little in how it felt to be playing before fans near his hometown in Arkansas, who followed him around the TPC Southwind and were treated to a round with few highlights, good or bad.
Gay has narrowly missed out on qualifying for the first two majors, although he has one chance left. Having won at Hilton Head last month, a victory this week would get him into the U.S. Open. He led by one shot over Jimmy Walker.
Mickelson openly shared his emotions and fears before the tournament. He was more guarded after his round Thursday, sticking mainly to his golf and the tropical vacation after the U.S. Open a week before Amy has surgery and begins treatment.
“It wasn’t a great round, but it was a good start,” Mickelson said. “It was fun to play a little bit.”
Mickelson could not have scripted a better start to his round, opening with an approach to 5 feet for birdie and holing a 25-foot birdie putt on the next hole, the par-3 11th.
Asked if it felt like a typical round, he replied, “Once we got going.”
“I felt a little rusty, but I made a couple of birdies early, and that made it more relaxed,” he said.