Mickelson has exceptional back nine and finishes just one shot off the lead
AUGUSTA — Many golf fans – older golf fans, that is – remember when Jack Nicklaus won his sixth Masters title in 1986 at the age of 46. It would probably be a record that would stand, no one would think that is untouchable.
But here we are, after one day, we have Phil Mickelson just two months short of 49 years old and just a shot back of those two young pups Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau.
Like Jack, Phil would also be going for the multiple jacket – his fourth.
Mickelson carved up his second nine holes, scoring five birdies over his last eight for a 5-under 67 on Thursday.
“It was a lot of fun,” he said. “And it’s fun to finish off the round. it’s fun to make a good par save on 17 and birdie the last. It’s fun to finish a good round off rather than leak one here or there coming in. So it was a good day.”
It started on 12, his tee shot ended up on the back, but just off the green. Fortunately, it was just a few feet from the hole and he was able to roll it in.
He would go on to have short putts on 13 and 15 to get him to 3 under. And a terrific tee shot on 16 put him with a relatively easy birdie.
Mickelson believes his run started as a result of back-to-back bogeys on 10 and 11, and that included going in the water on his approach.
“It looked like after bogeying 10 and 11 that would kill some momentum,” he said. “It was the other way around, because I made two great bogeys that should have and could have been doubles. After going in the water at 11 to hit that close and have an easy bogey and then to make a 6‑footer for bogey on 10 after a terrible drive, those were almost momentum maintainers, if you will, that kept me in it.”
He would finish his day with an approach to the green at 18 that put him within two feet.
The fact there had been some rain earlier in the week was a good time to take advantage what the course offered and he did just that.
“I was just hoping to shoot in the 60s,” he said. “I thought – yeah, I thought there were some 66s out there. Look, the greens are softer than they’ve ever been, and they’re not as fast as they normally are. So today was a day to take advantage of it. I’m sure they’ll get firmer and faster as the week goes on.”