Jet-set Mickelson flying high

6/13/2013 9:18:00 PM
Phil Mickelson   (Getty Images)
Phil Mickelson (Getty Images)
Fresh from a cross-country plane journey, five-time runner-up Phil Mickelson made the perfect start to his bid for a first US Open Championship title on a weather-delayed opening day at Merion.

Mickelson had flown home to California on Monday after torrential rain saw the course closed in mid-afternoon, and then attended his daughter's eighth-grade graduation on Wednesday afternoon before flying back in time for his 7:11am tee time on Thursday morning.

He landed in Philadelphia at 3:30am in his private jet and was at the course at 5:40am, only to start his round from the 11th with a three-putt bogey.

However, he birdied the 13th and was level par when a thunderstorm and torrential rain caused play to be suspended for more than three and a half hours, and when it did resume the four-time Major winner picked up birdies at the first, seventh and ninth to card an opening three under par 67.

That gave the left-hander, who turns 43 on Sunday, a two shot lead over Belgium's Nicolas Colsaerts, who was also safely in the clubhouse after a 69, with former Masters Tournament champion Charl Schwartzel among those a shot further back on level par.

"If I'm able, and I believe I will, to ultimately win a US Open, I would say that it's great," Mickelson said of his relationship with the tournament. "Because I will have had let's say a win and five seconds. But if I never get that win, then it would be a bit heart-breaking."

Mickelson's daughter Amanda was born the day after his first second place in the US Open at Pinehurst in 1999, where he wore a beeper on the course during the final round in case his wife went into labour.

He revealed she knew "a little bit" about her part in the drama and that she had quoted Ron Burgundy from the film Anchorman in her speech at the graduation ceremony.

"She told me stay, it's the US Open, I know how much you care about it," said Mickelson, who has five wedges but no driver in his bag this week.

"And I told her that I want to be there. I don't want to miss that. I don't want to miss her speech, I don't want to miss her graduation. She spent nine years at that school, she's worked very hard and I'm very proud of her.

"She did a great job and she even quoted Ron Burgundy, so it was funny. The ceremony was at 6pm. I got on the plane at 8pm, landed 3:30am. I had a couple of hours sleep on the plane, an hour before we teed off and an hour during the break. I feel great.

"This is not that out of the ordinary, I do this about six to ten times a year where I fly back east (on the) red eye, play some outing and then come home.

"When I was here (Merion) the week before I was able to do all the work I needed, the last part was getting my game sharp so being able to do that in nice weather on a good practice facility was advantageous."

Colsaerts had made a flying start with two birdies in his first four holes and then recovered from three bogeys in five holes from the first to birdie the seventh and eighth.

Ian Poulter had made a brilliant start with birdies on his first three holes and was still one under with five to play before having to settle for a 71 to finish alongside good friend Justin Rose.

The star grouping of Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott were on the fifth green when the siren sounded to signal another suspension of play at 6:10pm local time.

McIlroy and Scott were one under but Woods was one over and stood over a four foot putt for bogey when play was called off.

Mickelson now had company at the top of the leaderboard however, Sweden's Peter Hedblom carding four birdies and one bogey in his first seven holes.

Lee Westwood was one under after saving par on the sixth when a young spectator caught his wayward approach in the grandstand, the former world number one then getting up and down from the drop zone.