Los Angeles – Phil Mickelson, aiming to fill the glaring gap on his major resume at next week’s US Open, was pleased to finish one off the lead of Seamus Power on Thursday in the St. Jude Classic.
Mickelson, who has six runner-up finishes at the US Open and could complete a career Grand Slam with a victory at Shinnecock Hills next week, said he kept his round together despite some late struggles at TPC Southwind in Memphis, Tennessee.
“I finished the round off, even though I didn’t quite have it there at the end,” said the 47-year-old American, whose round included an eagle at the par-five third hole. “I had a nice simple round going and then I missed the last four fairways.
“I was able to gather myself if you will and control my thoughts a little bit better.”
Mickelson was among 11 players sharing second behind Ireland’s Power, who had six birdies and one bogey in his five-under par 65.
Power, who attended university in Tennessee, was unable to secure a US Open spot in sectional qualifying in Memphis earlier this week – earning only second-alternate status.
But he enjoyed a solid round, capped by a birdie at 18 where he landed his approach shot within five feet of the pin.
“I played here last year and it kind of suits my eye,” he said. “So I feel good going out – but it’s tough to get out of there with 65.”
Brooks Koepka, the reigning US Open champion, joined Mickelson on 66 thanks largely to a stellar day on the greens.
“I didn’t play well at all,” Koepka said. “We were all over the place. I’m a good putter. I just need to figure out everything else.”
Also a shot behind power were Troy Merrit, Wesley Bryan, Fabian Gomez, Chris Kirk, Michael Kim, Brandon Harkins, Steve Stricker, Mackenzie Hughes and Stuart Appleby.
World number two Dustin Johnson headed another big group on 67, his three-under round including a chip-in birdie at the par-four 12th.
His approach shot there landed on the edge of the water hazard and Johnson stripped off his right shoe and sock to take his stance with one foot in the muddy water – then saw his wedge shot find the hole.
“I actually didn’t hit it very well and got lucky and it went in the hole,” said Johnson, who was pleased with his play overall.
“Three-under’s a solid score around here,” he said. “I felt like I played a little better than that, but if I can keep hitting it like I am now I’ll continue to shoot good scores.
“I’m pretty happy with the position I’m in.”
Leading first-round scores on Thursday in the US PGA Tour FedEx St. Jude Classic in Memphis, Tennessee (USA unless noted, par-70):
65 – Seamus Power (IRL)
66 – Troy Merritt, Wesley Bryan, Fabin Gmez (ARG), Brooks Koepka, Phil Mickelson, Chris Kirk, Michael Kim, Brandon Harkins, Steve Stricker, Mackenzie Hughes (CAN), Stuart Appleby (AUS)
67 – Matt Jones (AUS), C.T. Pan (TPE), An Byeong-hun (KOR), Chez Reavie, Dustin Johnson, Dominic Bozzelli, Scott Stallings, Retief Goosen (RSA), Ryan Blaum, Andrew Putnam