Phil Mickelson fires best round since February in Las Vegas
By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 04/10/19 6:03am
Phil Mickelson overcame an early blip to get into contention with a first-round 65 as Brooks Koepka struggled at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas.
Mickelson bogeyed his first hole but hit back with seven birdies to end the day just two strokes behind early leader Nick Taylor, while Koepka needed two late birdies to salvage a 70 which left him four shots adrift of his brother, Chase.
Taylor was red hot over his opening nine holes as, after starting at the 10th, he birdied 12 and 13 before launching a pinpoint 315-yard drive to five feet at the par-four 15th and converting the chance for eagle.
The Canadian stayed on a roll with further birdies at the next two holes as he turned in 30, although he was more quiet on the outward half and settled for two more gains at the fourth and ninth holes to close out a 63 which earned him the outright lead on eight under par.
Brian Harman emerged as Taylor's closest challenger, the left-hander enjoying a run of four consecutive birdies mid-round in a bogey-free 64, with Mickelson among a group of five Americans in a share of third after he returned his best score since February.
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Mickelson began with a bogey at the 10th before responding with three birdies in four holes from the 13th, and he added four more over the front nine and was delighted to turn his form around after missing the cut at the Safeway Open last week.
"I felt like I just needed to make a subtle fix here or there from last week," he said. "The par-five play was poor, but I played today's par-fives in three under and shot a good round. That was a pretty easy fix.
"After the bogey on the first hole I played some really good golf. I kept ball in play and hit a lot of fairways. Right now my iron play is really good, and if I continue to give myself chances from the fairways I'm going to hit it close enough to make birdies.
"I'm excited to play some good golf again. I've had an awful six months on and off the course, but things are great now and I'm excited to play good golf. It takes a lot less energy, stress to perform well."
Koepka, meanwhile, looked a little out of sorts in his first competitive appearance since losing out to Rory McIlroy at the Tour Championship in August and was one over with four to play before gaining some momentum to take into day two with birdies at the sixth and ninth.
The world No 1's 70 left him in a tie for 85th, but his brother Chase was nicely placed on five under alongside Adam Scott, Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Cantley after a five-birdie 66 and a clean card.