Phil Mickelson posted a 6-under 66 Friday to grab a share of the first-round lead at the Constellation Furyk & Friends in Jacksonville, Fla.
Matt Gogel birdied four of his final five holes at to match Mickelson at 6 under. The pair are one stroke ahead of Cameron Beckman and Frank Lickliter II.
Five of Mickelson’s seven birdies came on the front nine at Timuquana Country Club. Had Mickelson not bogeyed his final hole, he would have the lead all to himself.
Mickelson, 51, has prospered in his limited time playing Champions Tour events. He won in his first two appearances and is making just his fourth start on the tour this week.
“I like the fact that it’s 54 holes,” Mickelson said. “It’s not anywhere near as mentally and physically draining as the regular tour and you don’t have to be as perfect as on the PGA Tour because the penalty for (a) miss is so much greater there.
“Now, granted, the golf course is challenging here and there’s some spots you’ve got to be careful, but for the most part it’s just really fun being out here and playing fewer holes and being able to play aggressive, kind of like the way I like to play.”
The first round survived a midday rain delay, as all 81 players in the field still managed to finish their rounds before dark. Mickelson birdied his last hole before the delay and his first hole coming out of it.
“I made a good putt there on the first hole that we came back,” he said. “I had already hit it close. I wasn’t quite on when we got back out there, I just was a little bit off. I hit a few wayward shots, I just didn’t feel great but fought to finish the round off and try to regroup for tomorrow. It’s a good start, though.”
Tied with the six-time major champion is Gogel, playing on a sponsor exemption. The former PGA Tour player won just once on the main circuit, at the 2002 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
Another newcomer to the 50-and-over tour is Beckman, who earned his first Champions win in July at the Dick’s Sporting Goods Open. Beckman had six birdies and one bogey Friday.
“You know, it’s my first year out here, so I’m working on trying to be more consistent, and the last couple weeks I’ve played really well and just didn’t get much out of it, so hopefully I get a little more this week,” Beckman said.
Germany’s Bernhard Langer, the Schwab Cup money leader entering the week, is part of an eight-way tie for fifth at 4-under 68.
Jim Furyk founded the event to benefit his charity, the Jim & Tabitha Furyk Foundation, and has expanded it from a one-day pro-am to a regular tournament for the first time. Furyk is tied for 13th at 3-under 69.
–Field Level Media