LAKE FOREST, Ill. – Phil Mickelson was anxious when he stepped onto the first tee Thursday afternoon.
Not only had he never seen Conway Farms before, but he also had a poor warm-up session on the range.
Given that context, his opening round at the BMW Championship turned out better than expected, with Mickelson salvaging a 1-under 70 with three birdies in a row late on the back nine. He is seven shots off the lead.
“It wasn’t the way I wanted to prepare for an event,” he said afterward. “Bones (caddie Jim Mackay) guided me around here. I’ll have to get a little bit more aggressive. I think I was a little cautious today not knowing what to expect.”
Mickelson didn’t arrive in Chicago until Wednesday night. According to the Tour, on Tuesday he was excused from the pro-am by Andy Pazder, chief of operations, because of a family matter that arose earlier that day in San Diego. When a player is excused from a pro-am, however, he is required to attend a sponsor function in its place, which Mickelson was planning to do Thursday night.
Mickelson declined to reveal any details about his late arrival, saying only, “Everything’s fine. I’m here now. I’m ready to play.”
When asked whether he had ever shown up at a tournament without having seen the course beforehand, Mickelson said, “Oh yeah, a bunch. It’s happened before.”
Entering this week at No. 6 in the FedEx Cup standings, Mickelson is trying to stay in the race for Player of the Year. A two-time winner this season, he has finished inside the top 20 only once in his last four starts after winning at Muirfield.
“I started to hit some good shots, but I don’t feel like I’m sharp,” he said. “I don’t feel like I’m prepared, and I’m going to have to play my way into this tournament because I didn’t feel like I could attack right from the start.”