As Padraig Harrington struggled in his PGA Tour Champions debut, Phil Mickelson took a share of the early lead at the Constellation Furyk & Friends.
Mickelson carded seven birdies and one bogey on his way to a six-under 66 at Timuquana Country Club, tying him with Matt Gogel at the top of the leaderboard.
Mickelson, 51, birdied three of his first four holes and added back-to-back gains from the seventh, taking advantage of the par-five 13th and 15th holes before surrendering a stroke at the par-four final.
“I enjoy how it’s 54 holes,” Mickelson added. “It’s not nearly as emotionally and physically taxing as the normal tour, and you don’t have to be as perfect as on the PGA Tour champions since the penalty for [a] miss is so much higher there.”
After opening-round 67s, Cameron Beckman and Frank Lickliter II are tied for third, while Bernhard Langer, Darren Clarke, and Ryder Cup vice-captain Robert Karlsson are two shots back.
Tournament host Jim Furyk is three strokes back, along with Ernie Els and England’s Paul Broadhurst, after USA Ryder Cup captain Steve Stricker birdied two of his final four holes to finish on one-under-par.
Tom Lehman hit a hole-in-one at the par-three 17th to join Fred Couples and John Daly on level par, while Europe’s Ryder Cup captain Harrington remains eight shots down and tied-58th in the 81-man field after a two-over 74.
Harrington birdied the first hole but double-bogeyed the fourth due to a poor second shot from a fairway bunker, with the Irishman then cancelling out a birdie at the eighth with dropped shots at the 12th and 15th.
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