Notes: Mickelson struggles; de Jonge shines in debut

Phil Mickelson of the U.S. watches his tee shot on the sixth tee during the Day 1 four-ball matches.

Phil Mickelson of the U.S. watches his tee shot on the sixth tee during the Day 1 four-ball matches.

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Phil Mickelson had used two drivers and no drivers, winning both the Masters and Open Championship. Mickelson also went without a driver at Torrey Pines during the 2008 U.S. Open, and that didn’t go so well.

But in every case, the lefthander had 14 clubs in his bag. During Thursday’s first round of the Presidents Cup, Mickelson had one less club than regulation, deciding to go with 13 instead.

Mickelson believed that Muirfield Village was playing fast enough that he didn’t need a driver and instead he would use his 3-wood as his primary driving club. But then it rained.

“When the rain came I probably needed one more,” Mickelson said.

Under the rules, Mickelson could have added another club during the delay, but said he didn’t know which one he would add.

• • •

MICKELSON, BRADLEY COOL OFF: Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley went 3-0 in team play at the 2012 Ryder Cup at Medinah.

Finding a partner he could rely on was a dream come true for Mickelson, but 12 months later the undefeated became the defeated, and neither player could exactly explain why, losing to Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen, 2 and 1.

Early on the U.S. duo was as hot as it was in Chicago, with a 2-up lead through seven holes after Bradley made an eagle from 7 feet. But it was a long drought after that, with the U.S. pair not getting a birdie until the 13th hole.

By then the Internationals were 1 up – and Mickelson struggled after the rain delay, leaving Bradley alone on the two par 3s with tee shots in the water.

“I ended up having a bad practice session before I went out, and I played terribly the back nine and left Keegan alone on a lot of holes,” Mickelson said. “And that's tough to do when you've got to make birdies, and he made a number of birdies, a number of putts to keep us in it and then we just lost it there in the end."

Mickelson told Couples during the rain delay that he might not be very good when they went back out on the course. But Couples still believed in the duo, partly from what they accomplished in Chicago and partly because they like playing together.

They also have a lot of energy, energy that the U.S. team needs after going from leading every match to holding just a one-point advantage.

“We changed a couple teams, and to be honest, once you start changing more than one team, then it becomes a whole mix‑match of everybody,” Couples said. “We feel very comfortable with Phil and Keegan leading the pack early."

• • •

STRONG DEBUT FOR DE JONGE: Rookie Brendon de Jonge made Muirfield Village look like his personal playground with eight birdies in his 18-hole match, most of the time keeping his partner Ernie Els afloat.

Despite losing 1 up to Steve Stricker and wunderkind Jordan Spieth, the International duo had a chance down the stretch. But in the end, de Jonge could not convert a crucial 17-footer to halve the last match on the course.

“Brendon played great, he played great golf,” Els said of his partner. “He putted well and hit some great shots. I’m really disappointed, that was an important point.”

Els did not win a point in Australia in 2011 and hasn’t won a four-ball match since teaming with Mike Weir in 2009.

But International captain Nick Price had enough confidence in the duo to play them together in Friday’s foursomes against Bill Haas and Hunter Mahan.

“I thought it was awesome; it’s probably the most fun I’ve ever had on the golf course,” de Jonge said of his baptism at the Presidents Cup. “Looking forward to the next three days.”

The only oddity of the match was de Jonge’s pants, which are a lighter green than the rest of the International team. The reason?

“I have no idea why," he said. "It's just what I was given.”

• • •

NO CHANGE NEEDED: Since the change to a four-day format in 2005, neither the U.S. nor the Internationals have kept the same pairings from Day 1 to Day 2 until this year, when Nick Price decided to not break up any of his six teams.

“I felt that they all played pretty well today,” Price said after making his pairings for Friday’s foursomes. “I've got confidence in our pairings; if some don't work well tomorrow, then we'll switch on Saturday a couple of them.”

• • •

LOUIS' BACK: After months of rehab to address a bad back (as well as neck and hip injuries), Louis Oosthuizen made it through 17 holes with no lingering effects.

After withdrawing from the Open Championship in mid-July, Oosthuizen has been home in South Africa rehabbing and playing golf only during the last couple of weeks.

As a tune-up, Oosthuizen played in the Dunhill Links last week and missed the cut.

“It’s fine,” Oosthuizen said of his health after his round. “Always a bit tight in the morning. “You could see its rusty; I hit a few awkward shots, but I also hit some good shots and my good shots were good.”

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