For most of us, the mere thought of a red-eye flight across three time zones, immediately followed by a full day of work would be enough to send chills down one’s spine. Then again, most of us don’t travel like Phil Mickelson.
Mickelson, who will turn 43 years old this Sunday, left Merion Golf Club, site of the U.S. Open, on Monday afternoon to head home to San Diego for his daughter’s eighth-grade graduation. He had always planned on the time away, so it really shouldn’t have come as any surprise. Following his return trip with the pressure of the first round of a major championship hanging over him, though, led many to question how effective he could possibly be.
If there was any lingering effect of the jet lag, Lefty certainly didn’t let it show on Thursday. Only 78 players finished their first round before darkness caused play to be halted, but Mickelson is one of only two players, along with Nicolas Colsaerts, to post a round under-par. Still on the course, Masters winner Adam Scott is tied with Mickelson at -3, and Luke Donald is a stroke ahead, -4 through 13.
Still, Mickelson’s lead can be credited to his intense preparation and continued momentum from last week at Memphis. Mickelson’s private jet left San Diego for Philadelphia at 11 PM EST Wednesday night, only eight hours and change before his scheduled tee time. He spent time studying his meticulous course notes, then caught a bit of shuteye. Leaving the driver at home like he did last week, he executed to near perfection, hitting 11 of 14 fairways, 14 greens in regulation, and needing only 29 putts.
It’s still far too early to say if Mickelson will be able to keep this up as course conditions are likely to dry out through the weekend, but it’s just about the best start you could ask for at the U.S. Open.