LEMONT, Ill. – Phil Mickelson had the putter going Thursday. The rest of his game? Well, it was touch and go.
Mickelson managed to get back to even par after a rough start in the BMW Championship, but an errant tee shot on 18 led to a bogey and a 1-over 72 for the breezy first round at Cog Hill.
“Never really had it going great today,” he said.
Mickelson had a double bogey on the par-3 No. 2 and was 4 over through five, one day after he panned the Rees Jones-designed course. At least he had company; playing partners Gary Woodland and Bubba Watson each bogeyed No. 2 and were 3 over when the group reached No. 6.
We got it going there when we started to get some downwind holes like 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, there were some birdie holes there,” Mickelson said.
There were four birdies in there for Lefty, who had a look at a fifth consecutive red number but was just short on a long putt on the par-4 No. 13.
Using a belly putter for the second straight tournament, he had just 24 putts in the first round - the lowest total in the field.
“Fought back to get it to even par and thought I had turned it around, and then made one bad swing off the tee on 18,” said Mickelson, who began the final hole with a drive that went out of bounds on the right side.
Mickelson also got his usual warm greeting from the crowd in his first round since he was one of several top players to offer a harsh critique of Cog Hill on Wednesday. There was the typical array of “Go Phil” shouts from the fans following his group, and he said he didn’t hear any negative words.
Mickelson also said he would talk to Cog Hill owner Frank Jemsek if he called to ask him what he would do to improve the course.
“I feel like the Jemsek family has meant a lot to golf and there’s a lot of families that have meant a lot to the game,” he said, “and I feel like as a player I would owe it to them to at least answer questions that they may have.”
STROUD’S RUN: Chris Stroud was packed and ready for Cog Hill before he nearly shot himself out of the FedEx Cup playoffs. He had to eagle No. 18 in the final round of the Deutsche Bank Championship on Monday just to make the top-70 cutoff for this week’s tournament.
So naturally he was quite pleased to be at the BMW Championship on Thursday.
“It’s nice to have a tee time in a golf tournament like this,” the 29-year-old Stroud said. “This is my first tournament, there is a few guys I talked to this morning, it’s the first tournament that I’ve played with no cut.”
Stroud started on No. 10 for his first tournament round at Cog Hill. He made the turn in 2 under, then had three bogeys in the first four holes on the front nine. He finished with five consecutive pars for a 72, and was already looking forward to his next tee time.
“I feel like I did a pretty good job just to hang in there for 1 over,” he said. “I got three more rounds. That’s definitely a positive here. I’m just going to try to tighten it up a little bit more for the next three rounds.”
WILSON’S WAY: This 65 was special for Mark Wilson.
Wilson played in front of a large group of family and friends in the first round of the BMW Championship and shot 6 under, good enough for a tie for second.
The 36-year-old Wilson was born in Wisconsin but moved to Chicago in 2004, where owner Frank Jemsek let him practice at Cog Hill. Wilson counts the sprawling suburban track as one of his home courses.
So Wilson was a little stung by some of the criticism of Cog Hill by his fellow pros this week.
“The Jemsek family has done so much for public golf here in Chicago, and all my neighbors come out and play here, all these courses, and Cog Hill is the one that everybody knows around here in Chicago,” Wilson said.
“To have the pros maybe not like it, it doesn’t hurt my feelings really, it’s just that there’s more to Cog Hill than just a one-week golf tournament for the pros.”
Furyk, who is No. 9 in the U.S. standings by only about $44,000 over Brandt Snedeker at No. 11, opened with a 68. The top 10 players after the BMW Championship automatically qualify for the team.
David Toms (No. 10) and Snedeker opened with a 71.
It’s a little more complicated for the international team, which relies on the world ranking. Ogilvy is No. 10 and probably needs only to finish in the top 25 to stay there. He opened with a 69. Robert Allenby is at No. 14 and opened with a 69, while Aaron Baddeley (No. 13) had a 71. Vijay Singh, who has played on every Presidents Cup team, is at No. 12 and shot 76.