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Mickelson Struggles, But Shows Resilience At PGA Championship

SPRINGFIELD, N.J. — After a wayward drive and a poor layup that nearly carried into the water, Phil Mickelson found himself mostly stymied by a stone bridge for his third shot on Baltusrol Golf Club's 18th hole.

The lefthander had only a half-swing, and when he made contact the ball shot straight right as if he'd hit a shocking cold shank. Mickelson eventually made bogey on the par-5 hole he birdied to win the 2005 PGA.

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Starting on the 10th hole for the first round of the PGA Championship on Thursday, it was that ugly for Mickelson in his first competition since his tremendous Sunday duel with Henrik Stenson in the British Open.

Whatever magic he had at Troon escaped him, but Mickelson showed steely resilience. He birdied three of his last seven holes to shoot 1-over-par 71. He wasn't in the thick of the hunt, but he wasn't out of it either.

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"Could have been terrible," Mickelson said. "I was 4 over through 11 holes [and] I'm playing a very difficult hole No. 3 [par-4, 500 yards], which is usually the hardest hole out there. I was able to make birdie there [from 12 feet]. That was a big birdie."

Michelson attributed his struggles to not having his usual routine of playing in a tournament the week before a major.

"Just quick at the top [of the swing]," Mickelson explained. "Just lost focus. Just antsy, a little jumpy, just lost rhythm and made some terrible swings. There's no real answer. The game has been very easy and the first 11 holes were very hard."

The Flip Side

At least Mickelson made his way back to something respectable. In the same group, Rory McIlroy could not do the same. The four-time major winner couldn't make a birdie, along with four bogeys for a score of 74. He'll be fighting to make the cut in the second round.

"Driving the ball as well as I have, ever. Iron play feels good," McIlroy said. "Just when I get on the greens, it's just a different story."

He needed 35 putts – an awful number that, according to tournament statistics, made him lose 3.8 strokes to the field on the greens.

Pleasing Day

Coming back from illness and with only one round of practice ever at Baltusrol, Jason Day did just fine. He opened with a 68 that could have been far better had he holed more putts. His irons were so good that Day gave himself plenty of looks at birdie, but the defending PGA champ could make only three.

"I've very excited about how I hit it today," Day said. "I hit a lot of good, quality shots. Hasn't been like that lately. To be able to go out there and hit it exactly where I'm going and see the shot and what I need to do and actually execute is exciting for me. Really positive stuff going into the next three rounds."

Day said it was "kind of a blessing" to not have practiced too much in the hot, sticky weather.

Few able to play the 554-yard 18th the way Day did, though he couldn't make a birdie. Day covered the distance with two 3-iron shots, ended up in a greenside bunker, and couldn't convert the subsequent birdie try from 10 feet.

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Day also missed birdie putts of 6, 12 and 13 feet on his front nine.

Notable

Andrew "Beef" Johnston birdied his final hole to shoot 70. In a stretch from 10 through 15 he didn't make a par, going bogey-birdie-bogey-birdie-birdie-bogey. ... Rich Beem, the 2002 PGA champ who does broadcast commentary more than he plays, shot 69.

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