Phil Mickelson spent much of his time leading up to the Masters complaining about a new PGA Tour schedule that did not suit his pre-Augusta needs. While he carded a birdie on the par-5 second hole, he bogeyed three, five and seven, and he apparently knew what he was talking about when he said his first several holes presented the biggest challenge to his attempt to win a fourth green jacket.
"I’m a little bit nervous heading in because I’m not competing the week before as I have for many years in the past," Mickelson told reporters Tuesday. "Those first opening five or six holes, being mentally tuned in, that’s what I care about. It’s always a challenge those first five or six holes, when you haven’t been in competition, to be really mentally focused and sharp."
Perhaps all those mental gymnastics wore Mickelson out, though he had pulled himself back together after a bogey on the par-4 seventh. Four consecutive pars and a birdie on the par-3 12th to start his turn around Amen Corner got Phil to 1-over through 12 -- seven back of improbable clubhouse leader Marc Leishman.
Oh, and Mickelson had one critical good luck charm going for him. After ending Wednesday’s Par 3 Contest in a five-way tie after regulation, the popular southpaw ended up not winning the tilt that pretty much guarantees the victor won’t be chatting with Jim Nantz in Butler Cabin on Sunday night.