Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Mickelson has rough start at PGA Championship

PITTSFORD, N.Y. — If you want to hear a mass of humanity go from giddy to groaning, watch highlights of Phil Mickelson's fourth hole Thursday.

The gallery favorite and British Open champion drew a penalty after his first errant tee shot, struck his second into the rough and turned a par-5 he loves to dominate into a double bogey that dropped him to 3 over.

Mickelson didn't record his first birdie until the ninth hole, then rang up three from Nos. 11-14 to get to 1 under. But the wheels came off again at the par-4 18th, where Mickelson posted his second double bogey in a 1-over 71 of the first round of the PGA Championship.

"Even when I was making birdies, it didn't feel good," Mickelson said. "I was just trying to fight and keep it in play. I've got to come out (today) and get a little more aggressive and attack."

That's better: Having endured plenty of wayward shots this season, Rory McIlroy was feeling more positive about his game after opening with 1-under 69.

He probably hadn't felt that good since last year's PGA Championship blowout at Kiawah Island, where he was on top of the golf world after a record eight-stroke victory. Sure, it's a different course. But McIlroy will take any little edge he can get.

"To come back here, it gives me some confidence," said McIlroy, since the beginning of last year a combined 51 over at the first three majors of the year, 14 under at the PGA. "(Thursday) was definitely positive. I felt like I played really, really well."

Close again: Canadian David Hearn, 34, was the tournament's first alternate and got in when Brendan Jones withdrew. In the first round he shot 4-under 66 to sit a stroke off the lead. Hearn, who played on the Tour from 2006-10, lost in a playoff at the John Deere Classic less than a month ago for his best finish on the PGA Tour. "My career has always had a certain progression, and I've always found a way to get competitive at the next level that I've been to," he said.