Fri, Jul 21, 2006 - Page 24 News List

Mickelson bounces back

BRITISH OPENAfter his calamitous performance at the US Open last month, Lefty was on a roll right from the start, clinching a prominent spot on the leaderboard

AP , HOYLAKE, ENGLAND

Jerry Kelly of the US chips the ball on the opening day of the 135th British Open Gold Championships in Hoylake, England, yesterday.

PHOTO: AFP

Phil Mickelson seems to have put Winged Foot behind him.

Bouncing back from a stunning collapse at the last major, Mickelson got off to a strong start in the British Open with an eagle at the fifth hole and a prominent spot on the leaderboard in the early going yesterday.

Sergio Garcia of Spain and Canada's Mike Weir were among the clubhouse leaders at 4-under 68, taking advantage of benign conditions after overnight storms passed through Royal Liverpool.

Garcia, still looking for his first major win, hasn't played well in the first two this year. He was 46th at the Masters and missed the cut at the US Open.

"My game is not as good as I want it to be," Garcia said. "But it's getting there slowly."

Australians Marcus Fraser and Mark Hensby, SK Ho of South Korea and Finland's Mikko Ilonen also shot 68.

Mickelson joined the group at 4 under when he rolled in a 6-footer for birdie at No. 10, the first of three par-5s on the back side. South Africa's Ernie Els, the 2002 champion, and England's Greg Owen were at 4 under approaching the end of their rounds.

Lefty got rolling right from the start, knocking his approach to 4 feet to set up a birdie at the first. He stumbled briefly with a bogey at the next hole, but rolled in a 12-footer for eagle at the par-5 fifth and made another birdie at No. 7.

If not for a calamitous final hole at the US Open last month, Mickelson could have come to the British Open with a chance to join defending champion Tiger Woods as the only players to hold all four professional major titles at the same time.

Mickelson won the PGA Championship last year, and followed with his second Masters title in April. He had the lead going to the 72nd hole at Winged Foot, but an errant tee shot led to double bogey when a par would have won the tournament.

The opening round began a half-hour behind schedule at Royal Liverpool, the historic links along the Irish Sea that is hosting the tournament for the first time since 1967.

Overnight showers dampened the course, which was baked all week by sweltering heat, and thunder kept everyone in the clubhouse for an extra 30 minutes.

The sun broke through at midmorning, the skies turned blue and there was hardly any breeze to toughen things up.

Hensby, who made a triple bogey at No. 3, followed with nine birdies over his last 15 holes to claim a share of the lead.

Ilonen was playing the course for the first time since winning the British Amateur at Hoylake in 2000. Clearly, he hasn't forgotten how to play it, though he didn't expect his score to be good enough to hold the lead.

Woods kept a low profile in the days leading up to the British, though he hopes everyone will get a chance to see him on the weekend. That didn't happen at Winged Foot, where consecutive scores of 76 caused him to miss the cut in a major for the first time in his pro career.

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