MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) – Phil Mickelson talked about finishing off rounds coming into the St. Jude Classic, and he did just that Thursday with a 3-under 67 at TPC Southwind.
Mickelson birdied three of his final four holes for his first round in the 60s since the third round at the Wells Fargo Championship. He hadn’t shot below 70 since then, missing the cut at The Players Championship and tying for 49th at Memorial last week following a visit from FBI agents and lingering questions about an insider-trading investigation.
He hasn’t won in 19 events dating to the British Open and is among the players in Tennessee tuning up for the U.S. Open next week at Pinehurst.
“I did exactly what I need to do and some momentum that I need heading into the U.S. Open,” Mickelson said. “Tomorrow’s round, the same thing. Finish strong and play a good round.”
Retief Goosen was the clubhouse leader at 66.
Mickelelson, who tied for second at Southwind last year, was among the 53 players who finished before play was delayed in the afternoon because of a thunderstorm. With the storm bringing high wind, tournament officials closed the course to fans for the rest of the day and sent home as many volunteers as possible.
Play was scheduled to resume at 4:45 p.m., with officials hoping to squeeze in as much of the first round as possible.
Even with tricky wind Thursday morning, Mickelson said his focus on each shot was much better. He’s trying to better visualize the shot and curve his irons so that his approach shots land closer to the hole, giving him more tap-in opportunities. Finishing with the three birdies in his final four holes was exactly what he wanted in a round with five birdies and two bogeys.
He hit his approach from 135 yards on the par-4 sixth to 5 feet and rolled in the birdie putt. He left himself longer putts with a 7-footer on the par-3 eighth and an 11-footer on the par-4 ninth, but knocked them in for his strong finish.
“I’ve been struggling with finishing the round strong,” Mickelson said. “I had a good round last week on Thursday and then played poorly. To birdie three of the last four made it a great round. That’s exactly what I need to do.”
Firm greens made it tough to land balls close, but Goosen credited the firm greens with helping him roll in some of his birdie putts. He sunk a couple from 5 feet or closer, but also had a couple birdie putts from 14 feet. Goosen also saved par on No. 7 with a 12-foot putt.
“The greens are as good as greens as you can get,” Goosen said. “The greens are rolling close to 13 on the stimpmeter. They are really good. You hit the right putt, they are going to go in.”
A seven-time winner on the PGA Tour, Goosen hasn’t won on tour since 2009. He has two top-10 finishes this year as he continues his comeback from back surgery in August 2012. He tied for third in Memphis in 2011 and said he really likes the course.
That showed as Goosen, who started on No. 10, birdied four of five holes before making the turn. He finished his round with two more birdies and two bogeys, including one on the par-5 third when his drive landed against a tree and forcing him to chip back into the fairway toward the tee.
“But overall happy with my round,” Goosen said. “Nice to get off to a good start and try and hold onto that.”
Divots: Robert Garrigus withdrew after hurting his wrist in the 18th fairway. He had a 79 that included three bogeys, a double and an 8 on the par-4 17th.