Phil Mickelson made his debut round on the PGA Champions Tour a memorable one. The 50-year old superstar lit up the Ozarks National track with 11 birdies en route to a low-round 61 at the Charles Schwab Series event.
Mickelson’s maiden round was highlighted by five straight birdies on Nos. 13-17 en route to score of 10-under par, the lowest debut in PGA Champions Tour history.
Despite the record-setting day, Mickelson clings to a one-stroke lead over Australian David McKenzie, who shot a bogey-free 62.
“The expectation is there. If you play well and win, well, you’re supposed to do that. If you don’t, it’s like, ‘What happened?’” said Mickelson, who – at No. 54 – holds a higher world ranking than half the field at this week’s BMW Championship, the second leg of the FedExCup Playoffs.
“I wanted to make sure I was playing well when I played in my first one.”
Mickelson, who after a missed-cut in Boston – which ended his PGA Tour season, was a late addition to the field in Missouri.
“I was a little nervous going in and it feels great to get off to a good start, especially when you’re only in a three-round tournament, you don’t have that extra round,” said Mickelson, who turned 50 on June 14. “You’ve got to come out and get off to a good start so that you’re not playing catch-up.”
K.J. Choi and Rocco Mediate were among those at T3 on 7 under. Mike Weir, Ernie Els, Vijay Singh and Bernhard Langer were part of a six-way tie for seventh on 6 under.
1. Phil Mickelson -10 (61)
2. David McKenzie -9 (62)
3. K.J. Choi -7 (64)
3. Rocco Mediate -7 (64)
3. Rod Pampling -7 (64)
3. Tim Petrovic -7 (64)
One Question For Phil
Q. Were you surprised at anything that you saw out there today setup-wise different than the PGA Tour and the PGA Champions Tour?
PHIL MICKELSON: “I mean, it is in that, you know, the Tour is set up very difficult. You don’t see it, but I would say 12, 13 of the holes are always on kind of like top of a little crest where everything repels away. It’s very hard to get it close. And sometimes you have wedges and you’re like, gosh, if I can get it six, eight feet, that’s a heck of a shot.
“Out here, the pins weren’t like they were easy, it’s just like they were what you would see when you play at like a challenging setup when you play at your home course.”