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Phil Mickelson lights up Kiawah's back nine in 32, sits 3 back at PGA Championship


KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. – When Phil Mickelson opened with four bogeys in his first six holes at the PGA Championship, it looked as if he was headed for another forgettable week.

Mickelson hasn’t recorded a top-10 finish on the PGA Tour since August and finished 69th after holding the first-round lead two weeks ago at the Wells Fargo Championship.

But he overcame a rough start Thursday and played his next 10 holes in 5 under to shoot 2-under 70 at the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Golf Resort, three strokes behind leader Corey Conners.

“I’ve been having trouble staying present on every shot for the entire round,” Mickelson told ESPN in an interview after the round. “I thought I did a pretty good job today.”

Mickelson, the 2005 PGA Championship winner, got off to an inauspicious start at the 103rd PGA Championship with a bogey at the first. He got back to level par by wedging to 4 feet at the third hole, but then made three bogeys in a row beginning at the fourth.

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From there, Mickelson took advantage of some of the downwind holes, making birdies on three of the four par 5s at the Pete Dye layout (Nos. 7, 11, 16), and, as he put it, “snuck one in on 10,” after blasting a 344-yard drive and wedging to 5 feet.

“What I did do well was putt extremely solid inside 6-7 feet,” he said. “I didn’t make anything outside of that, but I did make everything inside of it.”

Mickelson saved his best work for the grueling five-hole stretch coming home. He played those holes in 2 under, carding back-to-back birdies at 15 and 16 and getting up and down for pars on the final two holes. His 32 on the second nine was nearly six strokes better than the field average. Still, Mickelson said he didn’t like the way he struck the ball on Thursday and rushed from his post-round interview with ESPN to the range to clean up his swing.

While others found reason to complain about the windy conditions or bad luck, Mickelson raved about the course and setup: “The thing about this course is it’s very fair even though it’s tough.”

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