Mickelson inspired as McIlroy stutters in Deutsche Championship
Northern Irishman trails by seven shots after rollercoaster round at TPC Boston
Tiger Woods (right) and Phil Mickelson of the USA on the 11th green during the first round of the Deutsche Bank Championship at TPC Boston in Norton, Massachusetts. Photograph: Jim Rogash/Getty Images
Rory McIlroy continues to blow hot and cold. As Phil Mickelson outgunned playing partner Tiger Woods to shoot an opening round 63, eight-under-par, to assume the first round lead in the Deutsche Bank championship at TPC Boston in Massachusetts, the 24-year-old Ulsterman – defending the title – shot a 70 that showed the Jekyll and Hyde nature of his current game.
Although Mickelson used the clubs in his bag like magic wands in fashioning a spectacular 63, McIlroy had a rollercoaster round. When he suffered a bogey on the drivable 298 yards fourth hole, his 13th, where he took two shots to escape a greenside bunker, McIlroy’s reaction was to roll up the sleeves and finish in some style with birdies coming in on the sixth, from 12 feet, and par five seventh where he hit a three-wood approach from 276 yards to find the green in two and two-putted.
He finished with a bogey on the ninth, however, where he overshot the green into thick greenside rough.
McIlroy had opened with a birdie on the 10th, hitting his approach from 155 yards to four feet, and added a further birdie on the 12th but the topsy-turvy nature of his round was demonstrated with bogeys on the 14th (where he found a greenside bunker) and 16th (when he three-putted). A birdie on the 18th was followed by a bogey on the first (another three-putt) and a birdie on the second.
Graeme McDowell, who missed the cut in the Barclays last week, the first of the season-ending FedEx Cup playoff tournaments, again struggled to recapture the form that has seen him win three times on tour this season. McDowell had three birdies and four bogeys in an opening round of 72. “I struggled to get any momentum going,” admitted McDowell.
Mickelson had no problems finding momentum, as the British Open champion continued his good recent form. And, again, when in the company of Woods, Mickelson delivered. Asked if playing with Woods brought out the best in him, Mickelson admitted: “It’s hard to think any differently.”
For much of the round, Mickelson’s 63 looked as if it would be even better. Earlier this season, Mickelson shot 60 in the first round of the Phoenix Open and, for a time, a sub-60 looked on the cards as he turned in 28 strokes which matched his lowest career nine (in the 1997 Las Vegas Invitational).
After his birdie on the 17th, his eighth hole, which put him six under on his round to that point, Mickelson felt he had a chance to “go really low.” But he bogeyed the first, his 10th, with a poor wedge shot and, although he bounced back for an eagle on the second, the magical 59 proved to be an elusive goal as he parred the next five holes before a birdie at the eighth was followed by a finishing bogey on the ninth.
Mickelson claimed that he knew the 59 was out of reach when he failed to birdie the short par four fourth hole, where his drive hung in the fringe around a greenside bunker and he failed to reach the green with his next shot. “I wasn’t too worried about shooting 59,” claimed Mickelson, who is focused on adding the FedEx title to his Claret Jug. “My game clicked last week (in the Barclays) and I feel like these next three weeks I’m going to play very well. I can just feel it.”
Mickelson took a one-stroke lead in the clubhouse over in-form Kevin Stadler, who shot 64. Hunter Mahan opened with a 65, and world number one Woods, who has recovered from a back injury that threatened his participation in the second of the four FedEx Cup events, shot a 68.