CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Phil Mickelson was entertaining to the very end Thursday and finished one shot behind Angel Cabrera in the first round of the Wells Fargo Championship.
Cabrera played in early, calmer conditions and thrived on the new Bermuda greens at Quail Hollow. He made seven birdies, including a 40-footer from just off the green, and turned in 6-under 66 that stood as the lead the rest of the day.
Coming off his first missed cut at the Masters in 17 years, Mickelson handled the strong, swirling wind in the afternoon for 5-under 67, tied with Martin Flores. Mickelson hit only one fairway on the back nine. He bogeyed both the par 3s. He chipped poorly but atoned for that with long par putts. And he wound up with the start he wanted at a PGA Tour event he badly wants to win.
"It was important for me to get off to a good start (Thursday) because I haven't played as well as I would like to this year and I haven't been getting off to great starts," Mickelson said. "So I'm always playing from behind. And it feels great to get off to a quick start where I don't have to feel like I'm playing catchup."
Webb Simpson, the 2012 U.S. Open champion and a member at Quail Hollow, was two back at 68 with Stewart Cink and Jonathan Byrd.
Rory McIlroy also had a few patches of wild play but still made six birdies and was in the large group at 69 that included 2010 PGA Championship winner Martin Kaymer, who played his final four holes in 2 under despite going bogey-eagle-eagle-bogey.
"Two eagles in a row, pretty rare. I don't think I've ever done that before," Kaymer said. "I missed a lot of short putts as well, so therefore, 3 under par is okay."
LPGA: Suzann Pettersen shot bogey-free 5-under 66 to take the first-round lead at the North Texas Shootout in Irving. Pettersen, who returned to the tour last week after missing a month with back issues, had a one-stroke lead over a group of six that included Cristie Kerr and Michelle Wie. Top-ranked Inbee Park, the defending champion, and Stacy Lewis, the highest-ranked American at No. 3, shot 71.