Mickelson gets going late at BMW, fires 70

Phil Mickelson walks up the second fairway with caddie Jim Mackay during the first round of the BMW Championship at Conway Farms.

Phil Mickelson walks up the second fairway with caddie Jim Mackay during the first round of the BMW Championship at Conway Farms.

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LAKE FOREST, Ill. – Phil Mickelson arrived late and, no surprise, started slowly on a Conway Farms course he had never seen before. But late in the round he managed three consecutive birdies, two of them produced with familiar and flashy wedge shots, and ended up with a 1-under 70, good for a tie for 18th.

Hence, he went from cautious and out of sorts to feeling he can go into attack mode in the BMW Championship second round Friday. He started to feel more comfortable with his swing and short game late. The run at Nos. 14-16 was evidence.

“It wasn't the way I wanted to prepare for an event, having not seen a course,” said Mickelson, who arrived in the Chicago area Wednesday night after getting permission to miss that day’s pro-am. “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 (caddie 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.”

On Tuesday afternoon, the PGA Tour excused Mickelson from the pro-am so he could attend to an undisclosed family matter at home. In return, Mickelson agreed to participate in a BMW social event Thursday night.

The five-time major winner said he couldn’t talk about the family issue but added that “everything is fine.”

That’s more than could be said of his game for much of the day, particularly went he went 2 over through 13 holes. He had a substandard warm-up session and said he was “more nervous” as a result.

But then he turned things around with the trio of birdies – from 2 feet at the par-5 14th, from 3 inches after nearly holing a 77-yard wedge shot at the next and on a 25-yard pitch-in from the right side of the 16th green.

“Yeah, well, that shot on 15 was cool, but I let a lot of shots get away today,” he said after hitting 10 fairways and 11 greens in regulation and taking 28 putts. “I’ve got to score better tomorrow.”

Mickelson practiced some during the off week in the FedEx Cup playoff schedule, but he displayed a game Thursday that wasn’t as sharp as he had expected.

Interestingly, his swing got off a little bit after two recent strong rounds: He closed with 65 and tied for sixth at The Barclays, then opened with 63 at the Deutsche Bank Championship in which he fell to 41st.

“It hasn’t quite clicked,” Mickelson said. “I started to hit some good shots (on the back), 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.”

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