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Elusive round of 62 is cursed: Mickelson

Big Phil rolls back the years at Troon but admits he felt like crying after lip-out denies him place in history books

By Paul Mahoney

Phil Mickelson thought he had made history - he was sure his 18-foot birdie putt at the last hole was in.

He was about to become the first player to shoot a round of 62 in 156 years of Major Championship golf - and then his ball lipped out. "Oh my god," he mouthed in horror before covering his face with his hands.

Leading The Open with an eight-under-par 63... yet American Mickelson, a favourite of the British crowd, was gutted.

"It was one of the best rounds that I've played and yet I want to shed a tear right now," Mickelson said after he had completed his round.

"That putt on 18 was an opportunity to do something historical. I knew it, and with a foot to go I thought I had done it.

"I saw that ball rolling right in the centre. I went to go get it, I had that surge of adrenaline that I had just shot a round of 62, and then I had the heartbreak that I didn't and I watched that ball lip out.

"It's such a rare opportunity to do something historic like that. If I had just hit a weak flail-off and never had a chance and left it short, so be it. But this ball was hunting right in the centre and didn't go. It is heartbreaking.

"There's a curse because that ball should have been in. If there wasn't a curse, that ball would have been in and I would have had that 62."

It was no consolation to the 46-year-old that he is only the 26th player to shoot a 63 in a Major.

He also becomes just the third member of an exclusive lip-out club, sharing heartbreak with Tiger Woods, whose putt for history defied gravity at the 2007 US PGA, and Nick Price, whose ball did likewise at the 1986 Masters at Augusta.

Let's just call them the 62 and a half club. Mickelson's 63 is also the lowest at Royal Troon, beating 64s by Woods in 1997 and Greg Norman in 1989.

The last 63 in a Major was by Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy in 2010 at St Andrews.

Despite his near miss, five-time Major winner Mickelson heads the eight American players in the top 11 on the leaderboard after the first round of the 145th Open at Royal Troon.

The last time he won anything at all was three years ago when he won the Claret Jug at Muirfield.

Mickelson has familiar company just below him in fellow Ryder Cup team-mates Patrick Reed, tied second at five under, and Steve Stricker, Keegan Bradley and defending champion Zach Johnson at four under along with Billy Horschel, Justin Thomas and Tony Finau.

Keeping the European flag flying are Germany's Martin Kaymer at five under and Denmark's Soren Kjeldsen at four under.

The British are represented by Andy Sullivan at four under and Justin Rose one further back.

On a balmy sun-kissed breathless day, players made hay on the front nine and hung on for dear life on the way back.

Reed (below) is the American that British golf fans love to hate.

He has cultivated a feisty relationship with spectators, particularly at the Ryder Cup. In 2014 at Gleneagles he earned a reputation for being the USA's Ian Poulter.

There was one infamous scene where, after holing a birdie putt, he placed his right finger to his lips as if to say "shush" to the Scottish galleries.

But he's a loveable rogue who has taken to the relaxed lifestyle of Scotland since arriving to play in the Scottish Open last week at Inverness.

"You come over here and like last week when I was over, when we were driving from the golf course from the hotel, there's just a lot of farmland, a lot of sceneries, you see the water to the left, the farms to the right and it's just a two-lane road going in and out," Reed said after his first round.

"So you just have that kind of relaxed feeling that you play golf and then have some relaxing time.

"Yet at home it's golf, sit in traffic, traffic lights, a thousand cars, people honking at you, and then you get home and you're trying to go through a busy hotel, so it's still stressful away from the golf course.

"Here it seems like it's just golf and then just kind of relax, have some fun.

"It's definitely a way different pace than back home. It's nice. It's a great change of pace."

Meanwhile, leading Englishman Sullivan admits he is relishing taking the battle to the Americans.

The Nuneaton professional's four-under 67 earned him a share of fourth on the first day at Royal Troon and he has a great deal of company from players from across the Atlantic.

By some strange quirk, Americans have won the last six Opens at Troon and, with Mickelson leading the charge this year, that could well become seven by the close of play on Sunday.

Although Sullivan is four behind Big Phil, he enjoyed his own personal best round at The Open on only his second appearance in the famous event.

"To shoot 67 on the first day of The Open certainly is a good start for me. I've been playing really well coming in," said the 30-year-old.

"If I keep that form going I certainly feel I am going to have a good chance come the weekend.

"My putting has come back. I've done a lot of work on my stroke and spent time with my coach Phil Kenyon just tweaking a few things.

"Twenty footers are rolling in quite regularly and that's helping me build momentum.

"But I'm just happy to be up there trying to take the Claret Jug out of American hands for a change."

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