FORT WORTH, Texas — Prior to last week’s PGA Championship, the feel-good comeback story of the year was Jordan Spieth, who had nearly fallen out of the top 100 in the world before rebounding with seven top-10 finishes in his last 10 starts.
Of course, Phil Mickelson cast that plotline aside at Kiawah Island, becoming the oldest player in history to capture a major tournament, snapping a two-year drought on the PGA Tour in the process.
As fate — or wise PGA Tour rules officials in the competitions department — would have it, the two were part of a featured pairing during Thursday’s opening round of the Charles Schwab Challenge, and Spieth seemed pretty determined to thrust his storyline back to the forefront.
On a windy day with considerably tougher rough than in previous years, Spieth finished with birdies on his final three holes of the day at Colonial Country Club, posting a 63 and claiming the top spot on the leaderboard after the early wave of players.
The highlight of the round — a perfect Spieth clip — came on his second-to-last hole of the day when the hometown hero chipped in from the fringe for birdie.
When the round was through, Spieth admitted he was thrilled to post a number that low.
“Yeah, it’s hard to go any lower. I made some putts, got started on the first hole today, that one goes in, and that’s what I talked about before the tournament,” Spieth said. “If I could get a couple to go in early in the first round and the confidence and the work I’ve been doing on my stroke the last few days, which is a somewhat significant change in a stroke feel, I thought that would exude just a little bit of confidence into the rest of the round on greens where I’ve been very successful on before.”
Meanwhile, Mickelson struggled out of the gate, posting a pair of bogeys on the first three holes, and limped home with a 3-over 73. Just days removed from his sixth major victory, he found tricky sailing and never seemed to get into a rhythm.
Phil Mickelson on the 14th tee during the first round of the Charles Schwab Challenge. Photo by Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports
“It was almost like I was trying a little too hard, and I wasn’t just calm and let it happen, and I was a little bit antsy. What would be the word? Unsettled would be the word,” Mickelson said. “Like I just couldn’t quite get calmed down in that same frame of mind. Like I said, I’ll have more time tonight and tomorrow, get back in it, because my game has been really good.”
Spieth going low at Colonial isn’t out of the ordinary — Thursday marked the 10th time he finished with a score of 65 or better, needing just 23 putts on the day to catapult ahead of the early pack.
And while Spieth — who, when he was in grade school, followed Phil Mickelson at Colonial Country — was the day’s clear victor from a pairing that also included Daniel Berger (68), the Dallas native said he enjoyed again playing with one of his boyhood idols, especially after Mickelson’s monumental victory. He also said he didn’t see any complacency from the 50-year-old.
“It’s always fun playing with Phil. I very much enjoyed that. Just watching him but also talking with him,” Spieth said. “He was pretty much the same. He wanted to show as low as he could and he was grinding and he was upset when it wasn’t going well, and he was very similar. You wouldn’t have known.”
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