2013 U.S. Open: Phil Mickelson takes early lead after red-eye flight to Merion Golf Club

Scott Halleran

Phil Mickelson returns from a cross-country jaunt to take the early lead at the U.S. Open.

After eschewing the chance to sit around the locker room in the rain at Merion Golf Club the last two days, Lefty flew across country to attend his daughter’s eighth-grade graduation, took a red-eye (yeah, it was on his private jet) back from San Diego to Philadelphia for his early-morning tee time on Thursday, and promptly played his way to the top of the U.S. Open leaderboard.

Starting his day with a bogey on the par-4 11th, it appeared that Mickelson may have sacrificed the opportunity for his first Open win with his jet-setting Father of the Year performance. But he got the shot back with a birdie on the 13th. He added three more birdies on the front nine to end his day at 3-under 67 and take the early lead in the clubhouse with Tiger Woods and the rest of the afternoon wave yet to play.

One-third of Mickelson’s opening-round threesome was his Ryder Cup teammate Keegan Bradley, who likely had a late night of his own but did not fare nearly so well as his mentor.

The New England native worried on Wednesday whether he would be able to catch every second of his beloved Boston Bruins’ first game of the Stanley Cup Final, according to the New York Daily News. Bradley played like a guy distraught over Boston’s heart-wrenching loss to Chicago in the third overtime, even knocking one shot backwards on his way to a triple-bogey 7 on the 16th, his sixth hole of the day.

The 2011 PGA Championship titleholder finished at 7-over.

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Mickelson, by the way, got a little shut-eye during the lengthy weather delay, as ESPN commentators noted he took a nap after the horn blew at 8:36 a.m. ET. The four-time major champion has a record five runner-up finishes in the USGA’s signature event.

For obvious reasons, the popular southpaw did not regret his pre-tourney decision.

"When I was here for the ... week before I was able to get all the work done that I needed," Mickelson told NBC after his round. "I didn’t need any course prep. I knew how it was going to play ... all that stuff was already decided. Being able to be in nice weather, on a great practice facility to get my game and my touch sharp, was advantageous."

More golf from SB Nation:

Masters champ aims for back-to-back

Helicopters couldn’t dry Merion

A guide to the East Course at Merion Golf Club

Rory likes ‘em slow

Tee times for first two rounds | How’d they all get to Merion?

Four Days in Fort Worth: Putting on a PGA Tour event

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