Former champion Phil Mickelson admitted he felt like crying after going agonisingly near recording the bottom rating in main historical past within the Open Championship at Royal Troon.
Mickelson, who has not received a match since lifting the Claret Jug at Muirfield in 2013, wanted to gap from 15 toes on the 18th to card a nine-under-par 62, solely to see his birdie try catch the sting of the outlet and keep out.
The 46-year-old might barely imagine it as he needed to accept a 63 – the 28th such rating in majors – and a three-shot lead over American compatriot Patrick Reed and Germany’s Martin Kaymer, with defending champion Zach Johnson a shot additional again in an eight-strong group which additionally included England’s Andy Sullivan.
Ryder Cup team-mates Justin Rose, Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson completed three underneath par and a shot forward of Rory McIlroy, whereas Masters and US Open champions Danny Willett and Dustin Johnson – in addition to Jordan Spieth – had been stage par.
Mickelson, who completed a shot outdoors the play-off the final time the Open was staged at Troon in 2004, had by no means shot decrease than 66 within the Open earlier than, together with his final such rating sealing victory three years in the past.
However the left-hander took benefit of the wind dropping within the afternoon to card 4 birdies on the entrance 9 and 4 extra coming house as he appears to be like to turn into the seventh consecutive American winner at Troon after Arnold Palmer, Tom Weiskopf, Tom Watson, Mark Calcavecchia, Justin Leonard and Todd Hamilton.
That may make him the fourth oldest main champion ever and the oldest on the Open since Outdated Tom Morris, who was simply two months older than Mickelson when profitable in 1867.
“This was pretty heartbreaking,” mentioned Mickelson.
“Nothing will match that ultimate spherical at Muirfield, however it was top-of-the-line rounds I’ve ever performed and but I need to shed a tear proper now. That putt on 18 was a chance to do one thing historic. I knew it and with a foot to go I believed I had achieved 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 62, and then I had the heartbreak that I didn’t and watched that ball lip out. It was, ‘Wow, that stings’. To have played this round and walk away feeling like I want to cry is a very awkward feeling.”
Requested if he believed within the gods, Mickelson mentioned jokingly: “I didn’t, but I do now. If there wasn’t a curse, that ball would have been in and I would have had that 62.”
Mickelson might discover a bonus in an eight.25am tee time on Friday earlier than the climate is forecast to deteriorate, however added: “One of many greatest challenges is while you shoot a spherical like this, you begin expectations operating by way of your head and so forth, and that is the one factor that I am going to must attempt to suppress.
“We’ll have various circumstances tomorrow. It should be very tough. Hopefully I’ve ready myself nicely sufficient to deal with this golf course underneath these circumstances and shoot a very good quantity. A superb quantity is perhaps over par.”
Kaymer has not received since claiming his second main title within the 2014 US Open and misplaced his full taking part in rights on the PGA Tour on the finish of final season, however is having fun with taking part in extra in Europe.
“When you’re an American you feel more comfortable in America,” the previous world primary mentioned. “As a European, I really like taking part in in Europe as a result of each week may be very totally different and each course that we play I benefit from the totally different cultures.
“For me, that is just the way I have to schedule my next few years. It took me 10 years to understand where is the best place for me to play my best golf.”
Royal Troon member Colin Montgomerie hit the opening tee shot at 6:35am and bounced again from a double bogey on the primary to complete stage, however world primary Jason Day struggled to a 73 and 1985 champion Sandy Lyle slumped to an 85 to prop up the sphere.
England’s Chris Wooden was compelled to withdraw after 12 holes with an ongoing neck damage.