NORTON, Mass. — Phil Mickelson keeps saying how much he loves playing with Tiger Woods. He shot 63 at the Deutsche Bank Championship to prove it.
In a feature grouping of the top three players in the world ranking, Mickelson turned in the star performance Friday morning with a 28 that allowed him to consider — but only briefly — another shot at 59.
By the end of the day, when he played a risky shot from deep in the trees on his final hole to salvage bogey, he was happy to have a share of the lead. Mickelson was tied with Brian Davis, who made a 25-foot birdie putt on the last hole to join him at 8-under 63.
“What Phil did today was pretty impressive,” Woods said after a 68 that only seemed worse considering the company he kept.
Masters champion Adam Scott, rounding out the 1-2-3 pairing, struggled to a 73 and joked later that he rolled out of the wrong side of the bed. “I wish could have gotten in their jet stream,” Scott said.
Mickelson did everything right.
He started his round on the TPC Boston by making birdie putts of 20 feet on No. 10 and 30 feet on No. 11. He ended the front nine with five straight birdies, only the second nine-hole score of 28 on the PGA Tour this year. And even after a bogey from the bunker on No. 1, he hit a 6-iron from 213 yards that settled just more than a foot away for eagle on the next hole. That put him at 8 under for his round with seven holes to play.
“It was a good start,” Mickelson said. “I got off to a great front nine and somewhat stalled on the back. But after shooting 7 under the first nine, it was going to be a good round as long as I didn’t mess it up.”
He tried. Mickelson ended his brilliant round with two words: “Oh, no.” He hit a snap-hook off the ninth tee, so far right that it missed the fairway by some 40 yards and went so deep in the woods that fans could barely see Mickelson ducking and weaving through the branches to find his ball.
He decided against a one-shot penalty drop out of the lateral hazard, fearing the slope would roll the ball too close to the branches and restrict his swing.
“Just give me an 8- or a 9-iron,” he told his caddie, Jim “Bones” Mackay. He was ready to hack away when his caddie reminded him the gallery was still in the way. Choking well up the grip, flattening the swing to avoid limbs, Mickelson chopped it out to the rough and still had 210 yards left. He knocked that one on the green and two-putted for his bogey and a 63.
Kevin Stadler birdied his last four holes for a 64.
Sergio Garcia, Hunter Mahan and Roberto Castro were in the group at 65. Garcia tends to skip the Deutsche Bank, but he is No. 55 in the FedEx Cup, no guarantee of being among the top 70 who advance to the third playoff event outside Chicago. Instead, the Spaniard is playing his fifth straight week.
Rory McIlroy opened with a 70, which he said was the worst score he could have shot.
It was at the Deutsche Bank Championship in 2007 when Mickelson first got over the mental hurdle of playing with Woods, his longtime nemesis. He said swing coach Butch Harmon, who formerly worked with Woods, gave him a few tips about playing with the world’s No. 1 player that relaxed Mickelson.
In the 15 rounds they have played together since, Mickelson has a 9-5-1 advantage in posting the lower score. He has shot the better score all five times in the final round, three of those leading to wins.
Mickelson had said Woods “brings out the best in me” on Thursday after his pro-am round. When asked about that again after his 63, Lefty smiled and said, “After today, it’s hard to think any differently.”
Woods referred to the course as “gettable,” the same description he gave of Muirfield when Mickelson shot 66 on the final day to win the British Open, considered one of the great closing rounds in a major. That was the case, though. The TPC Boston was soft enough — and the fairways wide enough — to allow some low numbers.
Woods said his back felt fine, and there were no outward indications he was in any pain. The only thing that hurt was not hitting enough shots close for birdie chances, and missing a few at the end. Woods had a 6-foot birdie putt on the seventh and a downhill birdie putt from about 12 feet on his last hole, missing both of them.
Mediate leads Champions Tour event
CALGARY, Alberta — Rocco Mediate eagled two of the final four holes to take the first-round lead in the Champions Tour’s inaugural Shaw Charity Classic.
The 50-year-old Mediate, the Allianz Championship winner in February in his first Champions Tour start, had an 8-under 63 at tree-lined Canyon Meadows. He played the final five holes in 6 under, making eagles on the par-5 15th and 18th and birdieing the par-3 14th and par-4 17th.
Bart Bryant, Jeff Sluman, Bobby Clampett and Canada’s Rod Spittle were a stroke back.
Fred Couples opened with a 69.
The tournament is the 50-and-over tour’s third event in Calgary. Don January won the 1983 Peter Jackson Champions at Earl Grey, and Brian Barnes won the 1998 AT&T Canada Senior Open at Glencoe.