JERSEY CITY, N.J. (AP) — Phil Mickelson salvaged a 1-under 70 on Thursday in the first round of The Barclays at Liberty National, birdieing three of his final seven holes and hitting a trademark flop shot to inches for a closing par.
“I had a great day with my putter,” said Mickelson, who has an endorsement deal with Barclays and is a Liberty National member. “I didn’t make anything outside 10 feet, but I made everything inside of 7, 8 feet. That’s critical for me.”
Though he belongs to the ultra-exclusive club, he admitted he’d never seen some of the back tee boxes on the 7,419-yard layout until this week.
“Because it’s such a tight golf course, having to play from those yardages is very difficult,” the three-time major winner said. “But you know, everybody has got to do it this week. I just don’t do it when I have a choice.”
Lefty had a bit of scare when he jarred his left elbow during a mid-round stretch when he dropped four strokes in five holes.
“I stung my elbow,” he said. “It hurt for a few holes. On nine, I had to hit a shot hard out of the rough and the rough is pretty thick and heavy. I jarred my elbow. It feels a little bit better. I don’t think it will be an issue.”
Mickelson, who took six weeks off earlier this summer after his wife and mother were diagnosed with breast cancer, is taking time to soak in the sights at the waterfront course and on his way back and forth from his Manhattan hotel.
“I love going by the Statue of Liberty every night. That’s cool,” he said. “Every morning we cruise right by it on the ferry and same thing going back. It makes me appreciate where we live. We live in the greatest place.”
DIPLOMACY: Robert Allenby passed on a chance to criticize the course – soft of.
“I really don’t know how to answer that in the right way because I could really get myself into a lot of trouble,” the Australian said, when asked about Liberty National’s tricky greens after his opening 3-under 68.
He did offer a telling sarcastic jab after struggling to detail his round. “I can’t remember which hole’s which,” Allenby said. “That’s the sign of a great course.”
Davis Love III looked at the positives.
“Condition-wise it’s the best course we’ve played in a long time,” Love said. “It’s a pretty nice place to come and play, whether you like the third green or not.”
Love opened with a 70. He parred the difficult par-4 third, holing a 10-foot putt on the small sloping green surrounded by shaved run-off areas.
“It’s hard,” Love said. “You’re not just going to bunt it around her and make a bunch of birdies. … You better get 14 (the 144-yard par 3) and the par 5s.”
Paul Goydos, tied for the lead with Sergio Garcia and Steve Marino at 65, accepted the hard course for what it is.
“It’s a long, hard golf course with difficult greens,” Goydos said. “I don’t think it’s meant to be easy, I know that. I don’t think (co-designer) Tom Kite was thinking, ‘Let’s see how easy I can make this course.”’
RETURN TO SENDER: Vijay Singh and Camilo Villegas shot 75s in the first round of the playoffs after combining to win all four events last year.
Singh won The Barclays at Ridgewood, then took the Deutsche Bank Championship the following week and went on to win the FedEx Cup.
The big Fijian has won The Barclays a record four times, three at Westchester Country Club. Fifty-ninth in the FedEx Cup standings, he’s winless this year and has only three top-10 finishes in 19 starts.
Villegas, 35th in the points race, won the final two FedEx Cup events – the BMW Championship and Tour Championship – and finished second in the playoff standings.
BADA BING: The Gambino crime family had a 150,000-square foot warehouse on the site of Liberty National’s $60 million clubhouse.
“To be honest, they were more professional than some other landowners we’ve dealt with,” said Dan Fireman, the son of club founder Paul Fireman.
OMEGAMAN: Sergio Garcia, tied for the first-round lead with Paul Goydos and Steve Marino after a 6-under 65, will select a partner Friday for the Spanish entry in the Omega Mission Hills World Cup in China on Nov. 26-29.
Garcia, seventh in the world ranking, will choose between No. 38 Miguel Angel Jimenez and No. 40 Alvaro Quiros.
Garcia has an endorsement deal with Omega and spent four hours Monday at the Swiss watchmaker’s Fifth Avenue boutique, in part working with children from The First Tee of Metropolitan New York. On Sunday after the tournament, he plans to visit countryman Rafael Nadel at the U.S. Open tennis tournament.
DIVOTS: Ian Poulter holed out from 120 yards for an eagle on the 442-yard, par-4 fifth. He shot a 67. … The top 100 in the FedEx Cup points after the event will be eligible for the Deutsche Bank next week in Norton, Mass. The field will be cut to 70 for the BMW Championship at Cog Hill in Lemont, Ill., and to 30 for the Tour Championship at East Lake in Atlanta.