| 13.8°C Dublin

Mickelson gets off to magic start


Amateur Kevin Phelan of Ireland hits his tee shot on the 11th hole during Round One of the 113th U.S. Open. Photo: Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

Amateur Kevin Phelan of Ireland hits his tee shot on the 11th hole during Round One of the 113th U.S. Open. Photo: Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

Phil Mickelson. Picture: REUTERS/Adam Hunger

Phil Mickelson. Picture: REUTERS/Adam Hunger


Amateur Kevin Phelan of Ireland hits his tee shot on the 11th hole during Round One of the 113th U.S. Open. Photo: Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

Family man Phil Mickelson, typically bold and unconventional in his tournament build-up, thrilled his fans by taking the clubhouse lead in the weather-delayed first round of the US Open.

Despite having arrived at Merion Golf Club in the early hours of the morning after an overnight flight from his native California, Mickelson soared into contention at the year's second major with a three-under-par 67.

Play was eventually abandoned for the day in fading light just before 8.30pm (00.30 Irish time), following two earlier suspensions totalling four-and-a-quarter hours, with world number six Luke Donald leading at four under par after 13 holes.

"I feel like I'm in pretty good control of my game, and it's nice to get off to such a good start," Englishman Donald said after making three consecutive birdies from the 11th, a curling nine-footer at the 13th giving him the outright lead.

Donald, a former world number one who has yet to clinch his first major title, was delighted to take advantage of a rain-softened Merion where there was very little wind but thick rough lying in wait as its main defence.

"You can attack the pins a little bit more, so it's playing as gentle as it might play so far," he said. "Today was a good day. I've got five holes left and five pretty tough ones to finish."

Masters champion Adam Scott was at three under after 11 holes while tournament favourite Tiger Woods, whose left wrist appeared to cause him pain on at least three occasions when playing out of the rough, was at two over after 10 holes.

Left-hander Mickelson, who carried five wedges but no driver in his bag to tackle Merion's short East Course, mixed four birdies with a lone bogey after setting off from the 11th hole in the second group of the day.

Mickelson equalled his lowest ever opening round at the US Open, having previously fired a 67 at the start of the 1999 championship at Pinehurst where he finished in second place.



"Pretty good, a good start," Mickelson said after making do with just a few hours of sleep on his private jet while returning from San Diego where he had attended his oldest daughter Amanda's eighth grade graduation ceremony.

"I might have used just a little caffeine booster at the turn, just to keep me sharp, but that was our ninth hole or so and I just wanted to make sure I had enough energy. I feel great."

Long-hitting Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts opened with a 69, while former Masters champion Charl Schwartzel, fellow South African Tim Clark, Australian Jason Day and Americans Jerry Kelly and Rickie Fowler carded 70s.

Kelly had been just one stroke behind Mickelson before slipping back with a double-bogey at the tricky par-four 18th.

Long-hitting Americans Bubba Watson and Dustin Johnson, and English world number five Justin Rose, were among a group of 10 players knotted on 71, which also included Irish amateur Kevin Phelan.

The 22-year-old, who moved with his family to Florida 10 years ago, is looking to improve upon the summer he had in 2010, the last time he qualified for the US Open. That year, he missed the cut, but has a decent chance of making it through to the weekend this time after his impressive opening round.

Phelan played phenomenally well from tee to green, hitting 12 of 14 fairways and finding 14 of 18 greens in regulation, though a couple of three-putt bogeys were costly for the Waterford Castle favourite, who had 33 putts in all.

"I'm happy enough," said Phelan. "It would have been nice to hole some more putts but I was steady from tee to green and gave myself plenty of chances."

Pádraig Harington had a more difficult day. The Dubliner missed 10 greens and was frustrated after making bogey on two of the easiest holes on the golf course, the par three 13th, his third, and eighth, on his way to carding a three-over 73.

Rory McIlroy and fellow Ulstermen Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke were among 76 players unable to finish their first rounds yesterday. McIlroy three-putted 11 in the gloom to slip back to level par with seven holes of his first round to play, while McDowell, with two double-bogeys on his card, was three-over through 12 and Clarke was five-over for his 14 holes.