Phil Mickelson shot a 7-under-par 64 to seize a two-stroke lead Thursday on the first day of the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte.
Mickelson, who turns 51 next month, notched eight birdies against only one bogey to surge to the top of the leaderboard. He ranks ninth all-time with 44 wins on the PGA Tour, one behind Walter Hagen (45) for eighth place, but does not have a top-20 finish this year or since turning 50 last June.
Starting on the back nine, Mickelson was even through four holes before a sizzling stretch of five birdies in a six-hole span paved the way for him becoming the oldest player to leader/co-lead after any round in tournament history.
“The biggest thing for me was I was able to say in the present and focus on each shot,” Mickelson said after shooting the lowest score by any player 50 or older in the event’s history. “My mind has been prone to wander.”
Kyoung-Hoon Lee of South Korea and Keegan Bradley are tied for second place after carding matching scores of 5-under-par 66.
Six more players are three strokes behind Mickelson at 4 under. That group includes Peter Malnati, Luke List, Gary Woodland, Keith Mitchell, Kyle Stanley and Tommy Fleetwood of the United Kingdom.
Another eight players sit at 3 under par, including Joel Dahmen, who was part of Mickelson’s grouping in the opening round. Dahmen previously had said that golfing with Mickelson was on his personal bucket list of things he hoped to experience.
“He’s a great guy,” Dahmen said. “He’s so full of … information, would be a good way to put it. I poked him a little bit, and he played awesome. I was trying not to get my butt kicked too bad.”
Defending champion Max Homa, who won the event the last time it was played in 2019, endured a miserable day as he finished with a 6-over-par 77 with six bogeys and a double-bogey. It marked his highest round all year.
Other tournament favorites also found some turbulence. U.S. Open champion Bryson DeChambeau needed birdies on two of his final three holes to come away with a 1-under-par 70, while Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland, Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele each finished at 1 over.
Mickelson is looking for his first win on the PGA Tour since February 2019, when he claimed the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
“There’s nothing physically holding me back from playing at a high level, but you cannot make mistakes at this level,” Mickelson said. “The guys out here are just so good, and I’ve been making a lot of errors, just simply not being mentally sharp.”
–Field Level Media