Mickelson inMemphismix after first round
Phil Mickelson got the strong finish he wanted. Steve Stricker is having too much fun to just stick to the senior circuit.
Mickelson and Stricker shot 4-under 66 on Thursday in the St. Jude Classic in Memphis, Tennessee, leaving them in an 11-player tie for second — a stroke behind Seamus Power of Ireland. Mickelson matched his best opening round in relation to par this season.
“Oh, it was a great start for me,” Mickelson said. “I ended up finishing off the round. I had a nice little stretch there in the middle where I went birdie, eagle, and I was able to finish it off with some pars after some poor tee shots.
“It’s a good start. It’s not like you’re trying to win the tournament on Thursday. But it’s nice not to put myself too far behind so I’mplaying catch-up. So another good round will put me right in it for the weekend.”
Power birdied his final hole for the lead over Mickelson, Stricker, U. S. Open champion Brooks Koepka and others. He went to No. 18 tied with seven others atop the leader board and took the lead himself with his second birdie over his final three holes.
A couple of Cal golfers had strong starts. Michael Kim is one of the players in the large group a shot back at 4 under, and Byeong An, who lost last weekend in a playoff at the Memorial, is two back.
The 51-year- old Stricker had a long day Monday qualifying nearby for the U. S. Open. He played only six holes Tuesday and a nine-hole pro-am Wednesday to rest up. He turned in a bogey-free round Thursday and capped his day chipping in from 34 feet for his fourth birdie. He has two top-25 finishes in seven tournaments on the PGA Tour this season, and Stricker said he wants to show he can finish off an event.
Koepka is preparing for his U. S. Open title defense next week. Second-ranked Dustin Johnson was at 67 with Retief Goosen, Scott Stallings and seven others.
Two- t ime defending champ Daniel Berger bogeyed three of his first five holes and finished with five bogeys and five birdies for a 70.
Mickelson won in March in Mexico for his 43rd career victory, and he has tied for second at the TPC Southwind twice with a tie for third since 2013. He is looking for his first win here while tuning up his game for the U.S. Open. He matched the 4-under par 68 he opened with at the HoustonOpen inAprilwith three birdies, an eagle and one bogey.
This tournament at TPC Southwind will become a World Golf Championship event in 2019, and Mickelson said this course is tough for anyone to shoot really low. That makes limiting mistakes crucial.
“If you don’t make any, you don’t lose too much ground and you can make it up quick,” Mickelson said. “It’s just a course that’s hard to go really low on. There’s a lot more big numbers on this course than you think. Water comes into play. There’s just some challenges.”
Johnson hit into the water for a double-bogey on No. 9. A winner here in 2012, Johnson also had the shot of the day on the par- 4 No. 12. With his ball near the water, Johnson took off his right shoe and rolled up his pant leg before stepping into the water. He chipped in from 40 feet.
“It wasn’t a very easy shot, and I actually didn’t hit it very well,” Johnson said. “I just got lucky and it went in the hole.”
Koepka got to 5 un- der with a string of four straight birdies but his second bogey cost him a share of the lead.
“I didn’t play well at all to be honest with you,” Koepka said. “We hit some pretty poor shots. We were kind of all over the place, but hope to figure this out for the rest of this week.”
Power played in college across the state at East Tennessee State, and the 31-year- old Irishman came into this event ranked No. 345 in the world. Teeing off in the morning and starting on No. 1, Power birdied two of his first three holes before dropping a stroke with a bogey on No. 4. He bounced right back with a birdie, and his sixth birdie came after hitting his approach from 128 yards to 3 feet tomatch his low round of the year. WOODS, MICKELSONPLACED IN U.S. OPEN SUPER GROUPS » Tiger Woods will play the opening two rounds of the U. S. Open with Jus- tin Thomas and Dustin Johnson, which feels like a grouping ofNos. 1-2-3 in the world. Except thatWoods is No. 80.
The USGA released its tee times for the U.S. Open next week at Shinnecock Hills in Southampton, New York, and it offered two stacked groups for the morning and afternoon. Mickelson, Jordan Spieth and RoryMcIlroy tee off together in themorning of the first round. Woods, Johnson and Thomas are together in the afternoon.
Woods is playing the U.S. Open for the first time since he missed the cut at Chambers Bay ( Washington) in 2015. He has been out of golf for most of the past two years recovering from back surgeries, and hisworldranking fell as low as No. 1,199 until returning to competition last December. In nine PGA Tour events, he has a pair of top 10s and had missed the cut only one time.