KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. (AP) – Don't worry, San Diego, Phil Mickelson promises to leave the Padres' baseball decisions to the baseball people.
Mickelson is part of an ownership group that includes former Los Angeles Dodgers owner Peter O'Malley that recently agreed to purchase the San Diego Padres. The deal must be approved by Major League Baseball.
Mickelson spoke Thursday after the opening round of the PGA Championship at The Ocean Course.
If things go through, Mickelson says he won't meddle in lineups, pitching changes, trades or managerial moves, like owners – the late George Steinbrenner ring a bell? – have done with teams in the past. Mickelson, who grew up a Padres fans in San Diego, said he'll concentrate on community relations, something he saw lacking for several years.
“There's been a bit of a disconnect the last few years and understandably so, where the community of San Diego has really been faithful and loyal to the team and put a lot of money in to give us one of the best ballparks in the baseball,'' he said. “The last few years I think the fan base has lost a little faith in the team and we'll see if we can turn that around.''
And how about that first time Mickelson's sitting in the owner's box as an actual owner? It will be “awkward, but exciting nonetheless.''
Mickelson shot a 1-over 73 and said he was close to bigger things. He's trying to turn around a majors season that started with a tie for third at the Masters, then fell apart as he tied for 65th at the U.S. Open and missed the cut last month at the British Open.
Mickelson is tied for 66th, seven shots behind first-round leader Carl Pettersson. Mickelson said he'll try and challenge the course more on Friday. “I'll see if I can get it down there and play a little bit more aggressive,'' he said. “If I hit some good tee shots, I feel like there's some low scores out there.''
OH, RICKIE: Rickie Fowler called a penalty on himself when he saw his ball move during a short tap-in on the 18th hole.
The one-stroke penalty gave him a 2-over 74 and left him in a tie for 88th instead of tie for 66th. He was eight shots off the lead.
Fowler said he saw the ball wiggle in the middle of his putt and could not say with 100 percent certainty that it was caused by the wind.
“I'm looking straight down at the ball, and kind of in the middle of my back stroke, it moved,'' Fowler said.
Fowler is hoping to add to a season where he won his first PGA Tour event, at the Wells Fargo in May, with his first major title. He was 27th at the Masters, 41st at the U.S. Open and 31st last month at the British Open.
DOING JOOST FINE: Joost Luiten (YOST LAU-ton) had PGA Championship officials scrambling for the record books with four holes to go until nerves did in the 26-year-old European Tour player.
Luiten was at 8-under par through 14 holes in Thursday's first round at The Ocean Course and looked ready to challenge the low round in majors history of 63. But Luiten closed with four straight birdies to finish with a 68 – leaving him two shots behind leader Carl Pettersson.
“I mean, I played really well and then to finish the round with straight bogeys is not a good feeling,'' Luiten said. “But it has been a good experience and I just have to take that into the next rounds.''
Luiten took up golf and ski jumping when he was 9 years old in his native Netherlands. Then a year later, Luiten fractured his elbow nose and bruised a knee in a ski-jumping accident so golf became his sport. He says he wears gloves on both hands – think Tommy “Two Gloves'' Gainey – when it's hot to help with grip. And he's enjoying his first PGA Championship.
On Wednesday, Luiten sent a picture on Twitter of an alligator patrolling the pond on the par-3 17th. A short time later, he Tweeted a photo of three deer, saying if the gator “had enough of all the balls, there's plenty of other food for him to eat'' with the hashtag, “alligatorvsdeer.''
Luiten started his round on the back nine and had three birdies and an eagle for a sizzling 31. He kept things going with birdies on the second, fourth and fifth holes to move to 8-under par with plenty of birdies holes left. Instead, Luiten's began a run of mistakes. He said he was too aggressive on birdie tries on the sixth and seventh holes, both which led to bogeys. Luiten hit irons in the wrong spots, he said, on the eighth and ninth holes for two more dropped shots.
Still, Luiten's happy with performance and ready to build on it in Friday's second round. “It was a great feeling to be out there with the crowds cheering me on and playing so well in a major,'' he said.
ALTERNATE PLAY: Ben Crane helped another alternate play a major for the first time.
Crane was the first reserve player at the British Open, but a larger-than-normal field meant two players would have to withdraw before a spot opened up. Crane decided to wait it out at his home in Oregon and had no time to make it to Royal Lytham & St. Annes in time, giving Michael Thompson the chance to play the British for the first time.
At the PGA Championship, Crane had to withdraw with a bad back, opening the way for Chris Stroud to compete at this tournament for the first time.
Stroud is friends with Crane and knew of his buddy's injuries and kept preparing for the tournament. Crane finally made it official on Wednesday.
“He definitely waited a little longer than I expected,'' Stroud said. “But I'm sure everybody else would've done that.''
Thompson missed the cut at the British after rounds of 74-73. Stroud opened the PGA Championship with a 73, seven shots behind leader Carl Pettersson.
DIVOTS: Charley Hoffman's first major the year got off to an awful start with a quadruple-bogey 8 on the first hole. Things didn't get much better for Hoffman after that as he added two more double bogeys and two bogeys on the way to a front-nine 45. He finished with an 81. … World No. 1 Luke Donald opened chase for his first major title with a 74, tied for 88th and eight shots off the lead. Donald thought he played better than the scorecard showed and is hopeful to make a charge in the second round and make the cut. Donald missed the cut at the U.S. Open this year, although he rebounded to finish fifth at the British Open. … Adam Scott said even though rules allowed him to take practice swings in the sand traps, he was still reluctant to try. Finally, Scott thought, “Why not?'' and took up some sand on practice swings. The PGA of America declared all sandy areas as “through the green,'' meaning players can ground their clubs and take practice swings on the sand. “I think that's the most odd thing I've ever experienced,'' he said. “Playing this course, that there's actually not a bunker on it.''