Darren Clarke returned an opening even par round of 71 as Main Tour regular, Phil Mickelson motored to the early lead at the Charles Schwab Series at Ozarks National at Bass Pro Shops Big Cedar Lodge.
Despite carding five birdies, former Champion Golfer of the Year Clarke finds himself languishing just inside the top-60 after three bogeys and a double blighted his scoring.
However, and we guess it had to be this way, the story of day one belonged to the bomb slinging, aviator wearing Mickelson who very much enjoyed his first outing in Senior company from the moment he drove through the gates at Ozarks National.
He quickly got down to work, going through his meticulous pre-round warm-up and even called over a rules official on the putting green to go over some Tour-specific rules about carts, caddies and the likes.
Then he gripped it and ripped down one on his way to a first of eleven birdies in a powerful debut, an ominous warning to those in the over-50’s bracket with Mickelson out in front, albeit only by one, at 10-under par.
“I had a lot of fun, I enjoyed competing against Retief for so many years and Steve Stricker is one of my favourite people in all of golf,” said Mickelson.
“Watching Stricker roll in putts early in the round gets your mindset in a very positive frame and I tried to kind of take his feel and touch and rhythm of stroke and I made some on the back.”
Mickelson fist-pumped after several putts on his inward nine and he made it clear after his round that he wants to become the 20th player in PGA Tour Champions history to win his debut.
“I was a little nervous,” he admitted. “It feels great to get off to a good start, especially in a three-round tournament, you’ve got to get off to a good start so you are not playing catch up. You want to come out and play well, the expectation (to win) is there, but there are a lot of great players out here and it is fun for me to able to compete against them.
David McKenzie is one shot back of Phil while Tim Petrovic, Rod Pampling, K.J. Choi and Rocco Mediate are three shots back at 7 under.
Full scoring HERE
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