Phil Mickelson has had a difficult year while battling legal issues and inconsistent play, but Thursday he found comfort in Augusta National's hallowed fairways.
The three-time Masters champion battled through blustery conditions in Round 1 to shoot a 1-under 71. He played his last seven holes in 2-under par while his playing competitors struggled on the closing holes.
"Man, I love it," Mickelson said after his round regarding the tough conditions."I thought anything at par or better was going to be a great score and it is.But because the greens are receptive, you can make birdies and you can stop balls on the greens and make easy pars on a lot of holes.
"The problem is there's a lot of holes out here that you can have a big number and you just have to be careful of that."
Even though Mickelson hasn't always enjoyed playing in the wind, he welcomes the breezy conditions at Augusta National.
"I love it around here especially because the wind is going to magnify your misses and a lot of the guys that aren't familiar with this course and where you can go to on certain holes for certain pins will miss in the wrong spot and end up making big numbers," he said."Andbecause I played here so many times and just kind of know where to go.
"I might miss it big, but I'll miss it in the right spot and I'll have a good chance to salvage par."
Mickelson's round waskick-started by draining alengthy eagle putt on the par-5 second hole. He struggled a bit toward the end of the front nine, but that eagle gave him confidence to shoot a good score.
"To make a putt on 2 for eagle and get the round started like that was exciting," Mickelson said."But I knew that there were still a lot of tough holes left out there and just trying to make pars was kind of the goal.And then take advantage of some of the par‑5s."
Mickelson and his caddieJim "Bones" Mackay are closing in on their 25th anniversary. Mickelson takes comfort in Mackay's experience, which helps him gain an advantage.
"Well, having somebody like Bones for this many years makes me one of the luckiest players, because that player/caddie relationship is crucial to success, but more than that to the enjoyment of playing golf for a living," Mickelson said."And having somebody like Bones, where we can have great conversation, banter, joke, and yet still pull great clubs and reads, having somebody like him has been invaluable to my career, absolutely."