Mickelson three off Open lead after first-round 69


GULLANE, Scotland – Bad news for Phil Mickelson: He missed a 4-footer for par on the 18th hole and made bogey. Good news for Phil Mickelson: He shot 69 Thursday at the Open Championship, which matches his second-best ever first-round score.

Coming off a victory last week at the Scottish Open, Mickelson has quickly vaulted into contention here at Muirfield, a place where he shot an opening-round 68 in 2002. (Mickelson shot 69 in the first round of the ’06 British Open at Hoylake.)

“I love the fact that I shot under par, because it’s a very challenging course out there,” Mickelson said. “I don’t expect anybody to beat the lead from the morning wave. I just don’t think it’s possible.”

Mickelson was in control of his game from the beginning and made birdie on Nos. 2 and 3 to quickly make his presence known. A bogey on No. 8 set him back but he rebounded with birdies on Nos. 14 and 15, before finishing with the bogey on the last. He is three shots behind Zach Johnson, who shot 66.

“I played well,” he said. “I had a spurt there in the middle of the round where I had some technical difficulties and hit some poor shots but was able to make pars and then turned it around.

“The guys that played early had a huge, huge break because even without any wind it’s beyond difficult.”