Mickelson struggles in British Am stroke play

Tim Mickelson will require contracts for his tournament next season.

GULLANE, Scotland – Tim Mickelson needs some of brother Phil’s magic if he wants to make it to the match play stages of the British Amateur Championship.

Actually, he needs more than magic. He needs a miracle.

Mickelson, head men’s golf coach at the University of San Diego, crashed to a 10-over 81 June 14 in the opening round of British Amateur Championship qualifying at Muirfield Golf Club.

With a tee time of 10:23 a.m. on the 15-time British Open venue, the San Diego coach got the full links experience, going out in the stiff breeze that blew across Muirfield.

Mickelson played the front nine in 41, and improved only marginally on the back nine, coming back in 40. His 81 was 15 shots worse than brother Phil’s 66 in the opening round here in the 2002 British Open.

“It was a tough day,” Mickelson said. “It took me 15 holes to learn how to play in the wind. I had only one green where I one-putted, and I was in six bunkers. These are the things that cost you.”

To be fair to the 31-year-old reinstated amateur, he didn’t have much time to practice for this tournament. Mickelson recently guided San Diego to a second-straight NCAA Championship appearance. As with last year, the Toreros failed to advance to the match-play rounds, losing in a playoff to Stanford.

“I hadn’t touched a club in about 25 days before I got here,” he said.

It showed.

Mickelson had to take a back seat to three members of his Toreros team. Alex Ching went around Muirfield in 69 shots, Scott Brace shot 74 and Gunner Wiebe posted a 75 at North Berwick.

Mickelson spent a few years trying to make it as a tour pro before deciding he didn’t have the right stuff to survive on the PGA Tour. Like Phil, he loved competing, but he differed from his brother when it came to putting in the necessary effort to survive on Tour.

“I didn’t enjoy the practice,” he said. “I didn’t really think I would make it to the top tour and wasn’t willing to put the work in.”

Both Mickelson brothers played college golf at Arizona State, and Tim was a member of the 1996 NCAA Championship team. He spent his final year playing for Oregon State before a brief stint trying to become a tour pro.

Mickelson spent two years as assistant to former San Diego coach Dale Walker before taking over the head coaching job seven years ago.

Unless he shoots a round in the low 60s at North Berwick on June 15, Mickelson’s role for the rest of the week will be cheerleader for any Toreros who manage to make it to match play.

Henrik Norlander continued the sort of play that helped Augusta State win the NCAA Championship. The Swede posted a 2-under 69 at Muirfield.

The low round belonged to Australia’s Kieran Pratt, who scored 68 at Muirfield.

Jonathan Randolph, a rising senior at Ole Miss and the highest-ranked player in the field at No. 4 on the R&A World Amateur Golf Ranking, shot 74 at Muirfield.

North Berwick, the shorter of the two links, yielded better scoring, as four players shot 4-under 67. East Tennessee State players Michael Stewart and Rhys Enoch were part of that group, as were former British Boys champion Emilio Cuartero of Spain and Englishman Ian Winstanley.

The top 64 players and ties from the 288 players competing will advance to match play, which begins Wednesday.

There were 51 players under par after the opening round, with 12 bettering par at Muirfield and the rest doing so at North Berwick, the easier course.

Much more admirable than the scoring was the pace of play. The last group at Muirfield took 4 hours and 25 minutes to complete the round. That’s lightning fast compared with previous years.

At least Tim Mickelson should be able to make a hasty exit from his first British Amateur Championship.

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