After missing the cut at the Masters three weeks ago, it was important for Phil Mickelson to at least be in the hunt at the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow in the first round. Mickelson is not only in contention, he is one shot out of the lead after an opening round of five-under-par 67. He is tied for second with Martin Flores, and each of them had a share of the lead at least once on Thursday afternoon. The leader is Angel Cabrera, who teed off in the morning and shot 66.
Mickelson came out with the heavy artillery early, with four birdies in the first eight holes, and made the turn at four under par. “I haven’t gotten off to great starts and I was really trying to get focused and get a good round Thursday” he said after his round, “I feel like I’m always playing from behind.” He grabbed a share of the lead after a birdie at No. 12, but then quickly gave it back with a bogey at the par-3 No. 13. When he caught Cabrera again with a birdie at 15, he was able to enjoy it for a hole before bogeying No. 17, the other par-3 on the back nine. The one-stroke deficit heading into the second round on Friday could have been worse. Mickelson said his putter saved him on Thursday, “It covered up some very poor chips…15 to 20 feet from the hole that should be tap-ins and I ended up making three of the four I hit so [my putting] covered up a lot of mistakes.”
For Angel Cabrera of Argentina the birdies came in one stretch of 10 holes on the Quail Hollow golf course on Thursday. After making par on the first two holes, he had seven birdies and a bogey from No. 2 through No. 12. Cabrera had nothing but pars the rest of the way on his way to the first round lead. Tied for fourth after day one are Jonathan Byrd, Stewart Cink and Webb Simpson at 68. There are nine golfers tied for seventh at three under.
This is the first competitive golf for Mickelson since his disappointing performance at Augusta. He is following his regular routine of playing in a tournament on the weekend before a big event. The Wells Fargo Championship is the last PGA Tour stop before the Players Championship next weekend at TPC Sawgrass. Mickelson was philosophical when asked by the Golf Channel about getting past missing the cut in the Masters, “You always have to let go of poor performances; it’s part of the game of golf. Failing is a huge part of playing this game, especially professionally, and you just have to let it go,” adding “there’s too many great tournaments coming up to let a poor performance affect the upcoming events.”
Phil Mickelson always tries to win, and being in the hunt at Quail Hollow is important to him. It is the first step to not only winning the Wells Fargo Championship this week, but to being fully prepared for the semi-major event next week at the Players Championship in Ponte Vedra, FL.
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Commentary by Chuck Podhaisky