CROMWELL, Conn. – Phil Mickelson states that age can be an asset.
The five-time head champion played his first tournament since turning 50 this month and shot a 7-under 63 on the Travelers Championship on Friday to take a one-stroke lead over the weekend.
Lefty said it might have been the wisdom that went with his age, keeping him in himself instead of competing with his long-standing playing partners, the top-ranked Rory McIlroy and Bryson DeChambeau.
“There are a few holes I can open and try to hit the driver, but I just want to play it on many holes and let my wedges take over, and I made a lot of good wedge shots this week,” said Mickelson, the tournament winner from 2001 and 2002.
Two more players retired due to the corona virus on Friday – Denny McCarthy for a positive test, and Bud Cauley, who tested negative, but decided to withdraw after playing alongside McCarthy on Thursday. There have been seven recordings related to COVID-19.
First round leader Mackenzie Hughes followed an opening 60 with a 68 and dropped to second place with 23-year-old Will Gordon, who led most of the day after an early 62.
Since winning at Pebble Beach for his 44th PGA Tour title early last year, Mickelson has struggled with far more missed cuts than good finishes.
On Friday, Mickelson put up a tree-lined TPC River Highlands bogey on his second hole before hitting the rankings. He made the first of his eight birdies from a green side bunker at No. 5 and shot 30 on the back nine.
While Mickelson is starting his 624th PGA Tour, Gordon is in his eighth tour event on a sponsor exemption.
He had nine birdies and missed a few more, including in the fourth hole where his 35-foot birdie putt stalled on the rim of the cup.
The former Vanderbilt star continues a long tradition of young players getting a break at TPC River Highlands. Since 1996, 77 of the tournament’s 98 unlimited sponsorship invitations have gone to players with fewer than 15 starts on the tour, and those players have achieved 90 wins together.
“I was supposed to play in three events that were canceled through COVID, so if those guys take a chance on me and believe in me, it means the world,” he said.
McIlroy followed his first lap 63 with a 68. He was in fourth place, four strokes ahead and was happy to be in the race.
“I know what it feels like to go low here, so I need some good ones this weekend,” he said. “But the game feels good and will be released early tomorrow and try to get back into the mix.
DeChambeau, the third member of the marquee, had the most entertaining round of the three. He was 8 under after a 67 with the strangest bogey of the day.
His tee shot on the par-4 10th hole hit the cart path, rolled and rolled and ended 428 meters from the tee and 48 meters from the hole.
But after throwing over the green and breaking off well before the hole, he missed a 7-foot leg.
“I tried to shoot a 35 meter shot and it came out 50 meters, and I said,” What’s going on? ‘,’ He said. There are a few things I still have to fix and some things I clearly don’t understand yet with the wedge. ‘
McCarthy, who shot opening round 67, said he was starting to feel sick Thursday night and tested positive for the virus on Friday morning.
“I woke up in the middle of the night with extra aches and pains and felt something was off,” he said. “I felt that all I had to test at the time was before I went to the course.”
Cauley, who opened with a 69, had two negative tests on Friday. He withdrew “from an excess of caution for my colleagues and everyone involved in the tournament,” he said.
Matt Wallace, the third member of their group, who turned down alone early Friday, shot a 72 to miss the cut.
“I haven’t felt better,” he said. “I play with a chance to change my career if I win, so why not play? It is black and white to me. I have tested negative and I can start playing. ‘
McCarthy was the third PGA Tour player to test positive for the virus since the reboot and second this week to Cameron Champ, who retired on Tuesday.
Nick Watney retired just before the second round of last week’s RBC Heritage Championship. Webb Simpson, Graeme McDowell, Brooks Koepka and his brother Chase also withdrew from the travelers after coming into contact with people who had the virus.