Playing alongside Dustin Johnson and defending champion Will McGirt on Thursday, Mickelson made late birdies on Nos. 7 and 9, his 16th and 18th holes of the day, to sign for an opening-round 2-under 70 that has him five shots off the lead held by David Lingmerth and Jason Dufner.
At this point, there’s very little the soon-to-be-47-year-old hasn’t accomplished in his professional career. He’ll get yet another chance at the U.S. Open and the career Grand Slam in two weeks at Erin Hills, but Lefty has his sights set on trying to finally solve a 31-year-old riddle this week at the Memorial.
A 16-year-old Mickelson first came to Muirfield when he played the U.S. Junior Amateur here in 1986, losing on the last hole in the quarterfinals.
“I’ve always had an affinity for this golf course,” he said. “It was always special to me. I fell in love with it when I was a junior. I fell in love with it as a kid.”
“It had to be Jack’s place. I had never seen a golf course this pristine, this green, this lush, this much water, [this many] cool holes. It was my first exposure to a golf course like this.”
Mickelson made his first start at the Memorial in 1991. In 16 previous tries, he has finished in the top 10 three times, with a best finish of T-4 in 2006.
“It would mean a lot to me [to win],” said Mickelson, who remains winless since his 2013 Open triumph. “This would mean more to me than any other regular tournament. First of all, it’s Jack’s tournament. And second, I’ve never won here.”