Sunday 25 September 2016

Phil Mickelson inches away from history as he opens up commanding Open lead after first round

Phil Casey

Published 14/07/2016 | 19:19

Former champion Phil Mickelson equalled the lowest score in major championship history after agonisingly lipping out with a putt to claim the outright record in the Open Championship at Royal Troon.

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Mickelson, who has not won since lifting the Claret Jug at Muirfield in 2013, needed to hole from 15 feet on the 18th to card a nine-under-par 62, only to see his attempt catch the edge of the hole and stay out.

The 46-year-old could barely believe it as he had to settle for a flawless 63 and a three-shot lead over compatriot Patrick Reed, with defending champion Zach Johnson and Martin Kaymer also five under approaching the end of their rounds.

Mickelson, who finished a shot outside the play-off the last time the Open was staged at Troon in 2004, had never shot lower than 66 in the Open before, with his last such score sealing victory three years ago.

But the left-hander took advantage of the wind dropping in the afternoon to card four birdies on the front nine and four more on the back as he looks to follow in the footsteps of compatriots Arnold Palmer, Tom Weiskopf, Tom Watson, Mark Calcavecchia, Justin Leonard and Todd Hamilton in winning the Open at the Ayrshire venue.

That would make him the fourth oldest major champion ever and the oldest at the Open since Old Tom Morris, who was just two months older than Mickelson when winning in 1867.

Mickelson admitted he felt like crying after coming so close to making history, adding: "This was pretty heartbreaking.

"I had this right in the centre of the hole with a foot to go and it was perfect speed. I don't understand what just happened. It moved....I don't understand.

"To have played this round and walk away feeling like I want to cry is a very awkward feeling."

Mickelson felt he was coming into form after a closing 66 in the Scottish Open on Sunday, adding: "I noticed it last week at Castle Stuart, I knew my swing was back in plane and started to feel easy and that's what it was like today.

"The only bad shot I hit all day was the tee shot on 18, I was fortunate to get away with it. And we had great weather. I've been here 11 days and I've never seen a day like this when the wind was calm and the sun was out."

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