Two months later, the magnitude of Phil Mickelson’s historic PGA Championship continues to swell. That’s because the improbability of that performance swells by the week.
Mickelson added to the picture on Thursday by opening the British Open at Royal St. George’s with a score of 10-over-par 80, good for a dead-last tie with Deyen Lawson. The cluttered card included eight bogeys, no birdies and concluded with a double bogey at No. 18.
The Jerry Rice jersey number represents Mickelson’s worst round in 27 British Open appearances, topping opening 79s he shot in 2008 and 2009.
Given the last 21 champions of the British Open have been within five shots of the lead after the first round, it no longer seems pertinent to speculate whether the 51-year old “Lefty” can find more magic and contend at Royal St. George’s. He is 16 shots behind Louis Oosthuizen, the first-round leader who shot 6-under 64.
Frankly, it seems highly unlikely Mickelson will even be in the championship come Friday evening.
Boosted by his unexpected sixth major championship win in May, Mickelson’s illustrious career has always featured a mercurial texture, with many near-misses, many unconventional moments and many ups and downs. Certainly one of the highest points was his performance at Kiawah Island.
But since that stunning result, in which he became the first player in his 50s to win a major, Mickelson has all but disappeared. He tied for 62nd at the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, and his T61 at the Travelers the following week is his best post-PGA finish.
There was even a loss in the prime time television event, "The Match", as Mickelson and Tom Brady succumbed to the team of Bryson DeChambeau and Aaron Rodgers.
No doubt, the first-round performance at Royal St. George’s was disheartening for the man with “calves like Adonis.” At the same time, Mickelson made it clear before the championship that he was uncertain about his chances.
“The first thing I have to say is that I will look back on this year as a great one, because I won the PGA,” he told Golf Digest. “But I have been inconsistent in my scoring. From a physical standpoint, my body feels really good. And my physical game has been good nearly all season. I’ve hit the ball well nearly every week. So my inconsistency has stemmed from my inability to focus intently week-to-week.
“At Kiawah, I was focused and felt great. Trying to get to that place more often is the goal. I just have to figure out ways to get back into that state of mind and that intensity. And nowhere is that more important than in conditions like we’re going to have this week. This course can be very penalizing. You’ve got to be focused on every shot. The penalty for a miss can be so dramatic.”
More Day 1 British Open Coverage From Morning Read
- Bryson DeChambeau Rips Gear, Says Driver 'Sucks' After Uneven Opening Round
- Spieth (65) Enjoys Vintage Opening Round in Quest to Cap Comeback Season
- Louis Oosthuizen, Jordan Spieth Start Fast in Round 1
- Phil Mickelson Tied for Last After Shooting Ugly 80
- Cink Eyes Follow-up Act to 2009 Open Title Over Tom Watson
- England's Richard Bland Relishes First Tee Shot Thursday Morning
-Weather is Always a Factor at British Open -- Especially This Week