Mickelson played fairway to green most of the round and fired a 32 on the front nine with four birdies. "They're just tremendous, tremendous fans". "I feel like I've got lapped", said Nuneaton's Andy Sullivan, who led the British contenders at four under. "That was a chance to do something historical right there, and to miss it that way". "He obviously had a awful run, which basically put it right back in anyone's hands". There's a curse, because that ball should have been in. "No matter if it took me six shots to get out of the bunker the other day and I made nine, it's a great golf hole". Still, he keeps everything so simple his golf included that he still recognizes he has to play good golf over 72 holes to have a chance.
Louis Oosthuizen, Open champion in 2010, had an unremarkable level-par 71 round - apart, that is, from his hole in one at the 14th.
Only 13 golfers in the game's long history have won more Majors than Mickelson's five, but he hasn't won one since his improbable victory at the British three years ago. Yet Mickelson remains a favorite of a different sort.
The five-time major victor closed his round three shots clear at the summit. His frustration at the U.S. Open has been particularly galling after finishing second a record six times and twice blowing great opportunities to win the final leg of the career Grand Slam. "I think there should definitely be more holes like that in golf".
Although all those near-misses could be depressing if he thinks about them for long, the fact is they, like everything else about him, pale in comparison to Jack Nicklaus. "It just depends on how hard it is", he said of the anticipated wind and rain.
It was so inviting that when Mickelson was finished he remarked, "I felt like it was kind of easy". Spieth was heard uttering rare words - "I can't buy a putt" - on his way to a 71, while Day made it three straight majors as the No. 1 player in which he failed to break par in the opening round. "I didn't try to do too much".
The 46-year-old from San Diego, California had stamped his authority on the championship and, at eight-under par, leads overnight by three shots from joint second-placed Patrick Reed and Martin Kaymer, but he rued not nailing the record. But things are fixing to change Friday with blustery weather and rain scheduled to arrive early and stay the weekend. It was at Royal Troon in 2004, when Mickelson finished third, that he said he truly began to understand links golf.
Mickelson understands what's coming but Thursday was not a time for worrying about what's next. It was a time to revel in the moment, even if the moment didn't quite arrive. Mickelson is the sixth best putter on the PGA Tour this season from the 15-to-20-foot range, and even he only makes around 27% of those putts. "I mean, nothing will match that final round at Muirfield (referring to the 66 that won him the Open in 2013) but it was one of the best rounds I've ever played and I was able to take advantage of these conditions, and yet I want to shed a tear right now". And forget his putt on 18. We were walking up the (18th) fairway and I said, 'Come on buddy, you have to make this putt for a 62. I struck the ball tremendously well. He had a curling 15-foot putt for birdie on 18 that would have given him a 62, but the ball circled the hole and then came to rest just outside it.
"It was, wow, that stings".
"I love it - that's why I was here last week playing at Castle Stuart in that stuff", Mickelson said about playing in the typical Scottish elements considering the probable turn to nastier weather over the next three days.
In 436 majors held over the last 156 years, no one had ever shot 62. That would have been really something special.
The 2013 victor of the Claret Jug came within inches of becoming the first golfer ever to record a 62 in major championship history as his birdie putt at the last licked the cup, just refusing to drop.