PGA Championship: Phil Mickelson always at home at Bethpage

John David Mercer/USA TODAY Sports

PGA Championship: Phil Mickelson always at home at Bethpage

Golf

PGA Championship: Phil Mickelson always at home at Bethpage

By

FARMINGDALE, N.Y. — It doesn’t seem to matter what decade it is, or how well Phil Mickelson is playing. When he shows up at Bethpage Black for a major championship, good things happen.

Mickelson shot a 1-under 69 on Thursday in the first round of the PGA Championship. After a slow start, Mickelson played his final 10 holes 3-under without a bogey to surge into a tie for ninth place, six shots behind leader Brooks Koepka.

“All in all,” Mickelson said, “it was a good day.”

  • SCORES: 101st PGA Championship
  • Mickelson has had plenty of those at Bethpage Black, where he was the runner-up in both of the previous majors played here: the 2002 and 2009 U.S Opens.

    So what is it about the Black Course and major championships that suits Mickelson so well?

    “That’s a good question,” Mickelson said. “I don’t know. It’s a very fair — I feel like I can make some pars out of the rough. I feel like I don’t have to be too perfect, but I feel like I can salvage a couple of pars with just a few bad tee shots, and if I keep it in check, I should be able to shoot an under-par round.”

    It didn’t appear Mickelson would be breaking par Thursday when he was 2-over through eight after back-to-back bogeys. He admitted, at that point, he would have gladly signed for anything near par.

    But then he got a major assist from his brother, and caddie, Tim, who noticed that Phil was coming up and out of his putting stroke.

    “So I made a slight adjustment and made four really good putts,” Mickelson said.

    Mickelson jumpstarted his round with a birdie on the ninth hole, poured in a 10-foot par save at 10, hit his approach at 11 inside of five feet to get back to even par, and then drained a 26-foot bomb at 12 to get to 1-under for the day. He finished with six straight pars, including a 10-foot save at 17 after he left his lag putt short.

    Mickelson was seven shots behind Koepka before he even hit a shot Thursday, but he said he didn’t let that discourage him because he couldn’t afford to.

    “I mean, it was a heck of a round,” Mickelson said of Koepka’s course-record 63. “But you just can’t get caught up in that because [this course is] such a difficult test that if you don’t stay in the moment, you’ll make a big number.”

    Mickelson avoided a big number on Thursday. Now he must to post a low number if he wants to seriously challenge the leader. It won’t be easy on a course this tough, but with a morning tee time on Friday, Mickelson believes he has a chance to do some damage before Koepka tees off.

    “I feel like I’m playing well. I feel good about my game, and I feel like I’m playing well enough to shoot a low round out there. I feel like I can shoot something in the mid 60s, whether it’s [Friday] or the weekend, I feel like I can do it.”

    Latest

    More Golfweek
    Home