Apparently the cure for a Ryder Cup hangover is a trip halfway around the world.
Phil Mickelson’s week in France was nothing short of a disaster, as the veteran went 0-2 while ceding the clinching point to Francesco Molinari during their Sunday singles match. Added as a pick by captain Jim Furyk to make his 12th straight U.S. squad, Mickelson admitted that he spent more time on the range than he had in years trying to fix his swing – to no avail.
That confidence didn’t improve early in the week at the season-opening Safeway Open, where Lefty crossed nine time zones to headline the field in Napa. Mickelson joked with fans during the Wednesday pro-am that his finding a fairway was an occasion worth celebrating, and he candidly told another fan that he should “probably not” be included in any fantasy lineups at Silverado.
It didn’t get any better as he prepared Thursday for his first event of the new season.
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“I had one of the worst warm-ups of the year, that I’ve had in a long time,” Mickelson said. “I was hitting the fence on the range right. I was hitting the fence on the range left. I was hitting it terrible.”
But Mickelson still has a few tricks up his sleeve, as evidenced by the bogey-free 65 he posted despite all of those recent struggles. At 7 under, he trails rookie Chase Wright by one shot as he looks to win for the second time this year. But as Mickelson pointed out after holing his final putt, it’s just one round.
“I was surprised at some of the shots I hit. I honestly have been hitting it just terrible, and today was just an anomaly,” Mickelson said. “Don’t let the good round fool you; I’m not at my best. But today, a few things clicked and it was fun.”
Mickelson hit 14 of 18 greens and needed only 25 putts, doing his damage in the middle of the round. After playing his first eight holes in 1 under, he reeled off six straight birdies from Nos. 9-14 to surge up the leaderboard and move into the early mix in wine country, where he and Patrick Cantlay are the only players ranked inside the top 25 in the world.
“The big thing is making the short ones,” he said. “Those are the ones that give you momentum. Those are the ones you have to make to have a good round, and I made a lot of them today.”