FORT WORTH, Texas – Phil Mickelson was smiling and flashing the thumbs-up to acknowledge the verbal kudos from the gallery after he birdied his first two holes in his return to the Colonial.
By the time he tapped in a bogey putt at the 18th hole, Lefty was shaking his head and trying to figure out how his impressive start turned into such a struggle.
“There’s no excuse. There’s no wind, the golf course is in perfect shape, and there were a lot of scores out there,” Mickelson said. “I just wasn’t one of them.”
On a hot day with ideal scoring conditions Thursday, Mickelson shot an opening 1-over 71, eight strokes behind co-leaders Jason Bohn, Jeff Overton and PGA Tour rookie Blake Adams.
It will take quite a comeback for Mickelson to win his third Colonial, a victory that would push him to No. 1 in the world ranking ahead of Tiger Woods for the first time in his career. He has work to do just to make the cut and participate in the tournament’s second “Pink Out” during the third round Saturday.
Mickelson wasn’t at a pink-swathed “Hogan’s Alley” to defend his title last May after finding out that his wife had breast cancer. That is when the Colonial had its first “Pink Out” to honor Amy Mickelson and raise awareness of the disease.
After 75 of the 121 players in the field finished under par, Mickelson was tied for 89th place.
Brian Davis was alone in fourth after shooting 64 despite a swollen face from an abscess inside his mouth. Davis left after his round to go see a doctor.
“The other guy looks worse than me,” Davis joked. “It’s pretty painful. I’ll probably have it cut out.”
There was a group of nine players at 65, one shot better than John Daly, who had his first bogey-free round in two years. Defending champion Steve Stricker shot 68.
After Mickelson blasted from a greenside bunker to 10 feet for a birdie at the opening par-5, 565-yard hole, the Masters champion put his drive at the dogleg-right 389-yard 2nd hole only 50 yards from the pin and pitched to 8 feet for another birdie.
Mickelson managed to save par at the 406-yard 6th hole despite sending his drive into the right rough and then hitting his approach only 37 yards – 43 yards away from the pin and still in the rough.
The next tee shot ricocheted backward off a tree, seemingly a break since he had a clear line to the No. 7 green despite being in the right rough. But Mickelson pushed his approach well left into a hazard, forcing him to take a penalty on his way to double bogey. His only other birdie came on a 16-foot putt at the par-3 8th.
“I played well the first four holes, then the last 14, I hit the ball terrible, so I’ll have some work to do,” Mickelson said. “Already was in there texting Butch (Harmon, his coach) and so I’ve got some direction. In the morning, I’ll probably get out here early.”
Mickelson, who hit only five of 14 fairways, bogeyed two of the last three holes. And he saved par in between at No. 17 despite his approach shot hitting a television tower.
Bohn woke up around 1 a.m. with sharp shooting pain in his left ear and so much congestion that he didn’t sleep much the rest of the night.
“But it didn’t affect my play too much, so I’m not really complaining,” said Bohn, who planned to see a doctor Thursday afternoon.
A week ago at the Byron Nelson Championship in Irving, about 25 miles away, Jason Day showed up before the first round feeling ill after a reaction to antibiotics that were supposed to wipe out a sinus infection. He thought about withdrawing and going home to Fort Worth, but shot an opening 4-under 66 and went on to get his first PGA Tour victory.
Maybe that’s a good omen for Bohn, who a month ago won the Zurich Classic for his first victory in five years.
“That would be one heck of a coincidence if that happened,” he said. “Two Jasons and two illnesses.”
Bohn made four birdie putts of 12 feet or more over his first seven holes. His only bogey came after his approach shot at the 18th flew over the green. That kept him from being atop the leaderboard alone, where he was after a 6-foot birdie putt on the 387-yard 17th.
In the first group of the day off No. 1, Overton was even until his 7-iron tee shot on the 194-yard 8th hole landed 6 feet from the pin. That set up the first of seven birdies in a 10-hole stretch. His backside 6-under 29 that was one off the course record.
Overton was the runner-up to Bohn in New Orleans and finished in a three-way tie for second behind Day last week at the Nelson.
“I hit a bunch of good iron shots and just been riding that wave. It’s been great,” Overton said. “I was like, `Come on, it’s playing pretty easy right now, let’s make a birdie or something. I had a perfect club (at No. 8). … The next thing I knew the floodgates just kind of opened.”
DIVOTS: Day, the Australian who now calls Fort Worth home and plays out of Colonial, has a chance to become the only player other than Ben Hogan in 1946 to win both Dallas-Fort Worth tournaments the same year. He opened with a 66. … Daly’s last bogey-free round was 83 rounds ago, at the 2008 Bob Hope Classic.