CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Phil Mickelson shot a one-under 71 in the opening round at the Wells Fargo Championship, but in a scene that's suddenly becoming all too familiar, Mickelson derailed a potentially low round with one bad swing.
Standing on the tee at the par-4 fourth hole, his 13th of the day, Mickelson was bogey-free and three under par. But he grabbed his driver and hit an ugly pull-hook into the adjacent driving range and out of play. Mickelson took little time hitting a provisional, and he pulled that tee shot into the trees, eventually leading to a triple-bogey 7.
"I hit a lot of greens but made one mistake," Mickelson said afterward. "That was a really poor tee shot out of bounds."
Quail Hollow is Mickelson's first event since finishing tied for third at the Masters, where he made a triple-bogey six after a poor tee shot in his final round and finished two strokes out of a sudden-death playoff. Mickelson didn't see much of a comparison between his triple on Sunday at Augusta and Thursday's at Quail Hollow.
"The similarities would be the score and the triple, but really I played much better at Augusta than I did today," he said. "Even though I hit a lot of good iron shots and there was a lot of good shots I was pleased with, I also had some shots that were much bigger misses than at Augusta."
Mickelson quickly rebounded from the triple bogey with a birdie at the par-5 fifth. He bogeyed the par-3 sixth, but finished par-birdie-par to get to one under.
"It was a good way to finish there with a birdie on eight, and to just not shoot myself out of it," he said. "It wasn't the great round that I was hoping for, but it's right there where if I can get a hot round you're right in it."
Mickelson was living on the edge with his driver for most of the day.
On the short par-4 14th, Mickelson took the long stick and pushed it left. As it was in the air, the lefty snapped, "Hang on, hang on!" The ball landed in a greenside bunker near the pond, prompting Mickelson to turn to his caddie, Jim "Bones" Mackay, and say, "We're okay, it got a good bounce." He ended up saving par from the sand.
On the next hole, the par-5 15th, Mickelson pushed another one left, and this time there was no good bounce to be had as he found the water hazard. But Mickelson took a drop, ripped his approach above the hole and two-putted to save par.
Mickelson made the turn in one-under 35 and appeared to be heating up when he chipped in from the collar behind the first green and poured in a 16-foot putt for a birdie at No. 2, punctuated by a fist pump, to get to three under.
"The putter felt great; I didn't make every one, but I'm rolling them on my line," Mickelson said. "I thought I hit a lot of good putts, and some in the middle of the round went in."
Mickelson hit seven of 14 fairways, took 30 putts and made five birdies. But that one bad swing will keep him off the first page of the leaderboard, at least for now.
"I'm not overly concerned because I feel like there's a hot round out there," he said. "I'll come out here tomorrow afternoon and see if I can shoot mid-60s to get right in it for the weekend."