SINGAPORE (AP) — Phil Mickelson sought some long-distance coaching after finishing two strokes off the pace in Thursday’s opening round of the Singapore Open, behind a trio of leaders that upstaged the tournament’s big names.
Mickelson was as surprised by the quality of the opposition as he was dismayed with his form off the tee as he recorded a three-under 68 at the US$4 million (2.7 million) tournament.
He was two shots behind Australia’s Gavin Flint and Kane Webber and Jin Park of the United States, who each shot a five-under-par 66.
“I scored well and got the ball into the hole well,” Mickelson said after the round. “But my driving has been terrible and the worst that its been since I started working with (coach) Butch (Harmon).
“Its 10:15 his time at night and I’m going to give him a call, wake him up.
“I’m lucky to escape with a three-under-par round. I’ll talk to Butch to see if I can get it ironed out for tomorrow.”
Mickelson, who is attending the tournament after his family home narrowly escaped the Californian wildfires, was taken aback by the challenge of the course and rival players.
“I didn’t expect the course to be that difficult,” Mickelson said. “This is a tour-caliber golf course. The fairways are in perfect condition, and it’s tight. The rough is thick and the greens are fair and fast. It’s a good test of golf.
“I haven’t been made aware of how good the golf is in Asia. These players are strong.”
Flint and Webber both recorded five birdies in bogey-free rounds while Korean-born Park had six birdies and a bogey to top the leaderboard.
Flint, whose mother is Singaporean, was received enthusiastically by the galleries.
The leading trio was a stroke ahead of Angelo Que of the Philippines, who had a 67 at a remodeled 6,710-yards (6,130 meters), par-71 Serapong Course at Sentosa Golf Club.
Mickelson’s double-bogey on the par-four third hole ultimately cost him a share of the lead, and he finished at three-under along with South Korea’s K.J. Choi and Japan’s Tetsuji Hiratsuka.
There were four players at two under, with Fiji’s Vijay Singh — who had an eagle two at the ninth — and defending champion Adam Scott of Australia among 13 players who shot a one-under 70.
Scott was pleased with his form but could have scored more birdies.
“I seem to hit it to about 15to 20 feet quite a lot,” Scott said. “A few came up short, especially when you’re putting down the green. But I hit some good putts, I just haven’t quite got the pace down yet, that’s something I have to work on.”
U.S. Open champion Angel Cabrera recorded a double-bogey on the troublesome third hole and ended even-par, along with Britons Darren Clarke and Lee Westwood.
Ernie Els, the European Tour money leader who elected to play this tournament instead of the Volvo Masters and thus jeopardize his chances of claiming the Harry Vardon trophy without a fight, finished one over par.
The South African recorded a double-bogey on the par-five seventh, had two bogeys and three birdies in an awkward round.
Six players did not complete their round and would play the final holes on Friday morning.