Mickelson was 4 over on his round, still without a birdie and in danger of watching his opening round at the season’s final major carom off the rails.
But the people of New Jersey have a soft spot for Lefty, who won this event here 11 years ago, and one of the fans called out to Mickelson to remind him that there was still plenty of golf to play.
“He was right. Got a lot of golf left,” Mickelson said. “I came back and made some birdies.”
Mickelson managed three birdies across his final seven holes, turning what looked like a total flameout into a manageable, 1-over 71. While it’s not quite the record-tying start he had at the Open Championship earlier this month, Mickelson took some positives from his ability to salvage his opening effort.
“I’ve been playing very well at the British and in my preparation, and to come out and hit shots like I hit those first 11 holes was very disappointing,” he said. “However I’m proud that I hung in there, fought back and got three back coming in.”
Mickelson is six shots off the early pace set by Jimmy Walker, but he remains confident that all is not yet lost as he looks to hoist the Wanamaker Trophy at Baltusrol for the second time – and win a tournament for the first time in more than three years.
“I’m in a position where I know I’m playing well,” he said. “If I go out tomorrow and just play a good round, I think I can shoot mid-60s and get back in it, and that’s the goal.”