CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Maybe Masters champion Phil Mickelson has found a winning formula: get sick before a tournament.
In his first event since Augusta, Mickelson fired a 2-under 70 on Thursday to put himself in the mix after the first round at Quail Hollow Championship. Mickelson persevered despite being fatigued following an illness that forced him to withdraw from the pro-am a day earlier.
Mickelson was quick to point out he won at Doral last year and Torrey Pines in 2001 not long after being sick.
“The last two times I’ve fainted and woken up in a pool of vomit, I’ve won,” Mickelson said, smiling. “Laying there on the floor wondering where I am, a good omen came over me.”
Mickelson isn’t sure what caused this week’s 48-hour bug that left him dehydrated and needing IV fluids at the tournament medical center. He did acknowledge he started feeling tired walking up the 15th fairway, and he closed with consecutive bogeys that left him five shots behind leader Bo Van Pelt.
“I may have run out of a little bit of energy there toward the end, but I did hit some good shots and was able to shoot a decent round for the first round,” Mickelson said.
“I don’t quite have the energy yet, but I think this weekend I’ll feel great. It think it helps me pace myself.”
CLUB REUNION: Bo Van Pelt thanked his refurbished putter for not only his 7-under 65, but his returning sanity. Kenny Perry raved about finding his lost driver and his game after shooting 66.
The pair sit atop the leaderboard at Quail Hollow thanks to the familiarity of old clubs.
“I guess I’ve got a lot of good feelings with that putter,” Van Pelt said,
Van Pelt had ditched that reliable putter he had used for five years because it was getting rusty and dinged up. It touched off a dizzying stretch where he went through 10 putters of all shapes and sizes with little success.
“I was temporarily insane for about eight weeks,” Van Pelt said.
After missing the cut in Houston following 69 putts in two rounds, Van Pelt retrieved his old putter and had it fixed up and shortened.
He used it at Hilton Head two weeks ago and finished tied for third. On Thursday, he had just 26 putts after entering the week ranked 162nd in putting.
“It was good to have it back in my hands,” Van Pelt said.
Perry had the same feeling later in the day. He had taken off the shaft of the driver he won two tournaments with last year and put it in a drawer, only to forget where it was.
He recently found it, and used the driver and a belly putter to sit alone in second place.
“I was like, ‘Wow, where has this been?”’ Perry said. “It was a nice treasure I found.”
MORE CROWDED: The media tent has been expanded. The interview room is bigger, too.
But the media frenzy for Tigers Woods’ second tournament since his sex scandal seems to be missing from Quail Hollow Club.
Media director Lee Patterson said he gave out 353 media credentials, up from about 280 during a normal year. That did force officials to expand the media work area by 40 seats and move the interview room to an adjacent tent.
Most of the extra credentials went to national media outlets and television networks. Patterson said he denied credential requests to TV shows Inside Edition and Extra because they came after the request deadline. TMZ did not request a credential, Patterson said.
MAYFAIR’S WILD WEEK: Billy Mayfair likely took the most unusual route to get himself into contention.
Mayfair didn’t have an exemption into the field this week, so after finishing tied for 43rd at New Orleans, he was scheduled to fly to Charlotte Sunday night to play in the Monday qualifier.
Trouble is, he missed his flight Sunday. His wife, Tami, rebooked them on a 6 a.m. flight Monday through Atlanta. Mayfair awoke at 3 a.m. and arrived in Charlotte at noon for a 12:45 tee time.
“We hit a few balls, got rid of the airplane swing, hit a few putts, and off we went,” Mayfair said.
With his wife caddying, Mayfair shot 65 – including a birdie-birdie-birdie finish – to make the Quail Hollow field.
“I think I was still riding high from the week. I played pretty well in New Orleans,” Mayfair said. “Monday qualifier, you just fire at the pins and make as many birdies as you can, and you don’t worry about making bogeys.”
Mayfair followed that up with seven birdies on Thursday, shooting a 4-under 68 to sit three shots behind Van Pelt.
“I had a great day, drove it real well and had a lot of good iron shots,” Mayfair said. “I played very well.”
MAJOR FEEL: Geoff Ogilvy peered over and saw fans five and six deep jammed around the putting green shortly after he finished his round of 68 before noon.
“It feels like a major, doesn’t it,” Ogilvy said. “Look at the putting green Thursday lunchtime, that doesn’t happen every week. This is a really well-attended tournament by players and fans.”
With 11 of the 16 in the world rankings in the field, Quail Hollow has a top field. Ogilvy also thinks it has a course that could host a major. Quail Hollow officials haven’t hidden their desire to someday do that.
“It’s a course that feels a step above, challenge-wise, I guess,” Ogilvy said. “Even in good conditions with short rough, it’s still a really big challenge. So I think if we all turned up here and had a U.S. Open or PGA (Championship), it would feel like a normal U.S. Open or a PGA. It does feel like a major kind of place.”
DIVOTS: Parker McLachlin had a nightmare seventh hole, hitting four consecutive tee shots in the water to the right of the fairway before carding a 12 on the par-5. It matched Michael Campbell’s 12 on the sixth at Bay Hill for the worst score this season on the PGA Tour. McLachlin, who has missed four straight cuts, shot 88, worst score of the season on the Tour. … Defending champion Sean O’Hair shot 72. … Greg Kraft withdrew after nine holes because of vertigo.