After a disappointing showing on the front nine, Phil Mickelson needed a good start on the back nine.
The amazing birdie putt he sank on No. 10 more than qualified, but it ultimately didn't turn around Thursday's opening round at Augusta National for the three-time Masters champion. Mickelson finished the day at +4, one stroke worse than where he was at when he sunk what might end up being the putt of the tournament. His score of 76 puts him eight strokes back of first-day leader Bill Haas.
"It wasn't the best day for me," Mickelson later admitted to reporters.
But oh man, what a putt. Mickelson's birdie attempt on the par-4 10th came from an estimated 60 feet and had what the television announcers pegged at 15 feet of break. The ball took what looked like a 90-degree turn before rolling into the cup and Mickelson appeared to say "Are you kidding me?" as the crowd roared.
The birdie brought Mickelson's score to +2 on the day and washed away some bad memories from the seventh hole. Mickelson turned in a triple bogey on that hole after starting the day with six straight pars.
Mickelson, however, could not sustain much momentum from the putt. Though he birdied the par-5 13th to get to one-over, Mickelson then bogeyed the par-4 14th and then found water on the par-5 15th. He ended up turning in a double bogey on that hole en route to matching his worst finish in an opening round at Augusta National. He also scored that number in 1997, the only time he's missed the cut at The Masters.
"It was just mental mistakes ... I wasn't sharp," Mickelson said. "Throughout the day, I had pretty good control over where I wanted the ball to go. I was hitting it where I wanted ... I [just] made a lot of mistkes around the greens and threw away a ton of shots."
Mickelson is coming off a 2013 season in which he won the British Open, but a majority of last year's major winners struggled on Thursday. Defending PGA Championship winner Jason Dufner carded an embarrassing +8 while U.S. Open winner Justin Rose played with Mickelson and also turned in a +4. The lone exception was defending Masters champion Adam Scott. At -3, he's in a good position to consider becoming only the fourth back-to-back winner in Masters history.
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