Mickelson added a second round of 69 to his opening 63 at Royal Troon for a 10-under-par total of 132, one shot lower than the previous best at the Ayrshire venue set by American Bobby Clampett in 1982 and equalled by Darren Clarke in 1997.
And although that was only good enough for a one-shot lead over Sweden’s Henrik Stenson, Mickelson will be hoping of a repeat of the result at Muirfield in 2013, when he claimed his fifth major title as Stenson finished runner-up.
“We’re only halfway done with the tournament so it’s too far off to start thinking like that, but certainly there is nothing more than I would love to add another Claret Jug,” said the 46-year-old, who would become the fourth oldest winner of any major and the oldest in the Open since 1867.
“I think there is a lot of pressure off me given the fact that I’ve already got one.
“The other thing is that from 10 years ago, when I was playing my best golf, I’m 25 pounds lighter, I’m in better shape, I’m physically stronger than I was. I feel better and now that my swing is back on plane, I’m starting to hit some shots like I did 10 years ago and starting to play some of my best golf again.
“So I don’t see why there’s any reason why I can’t continue that, not just this week, but for years. That’s kind of what the game plan is.”
Mickelson had come agonisingly close to making history on day one, his birdie putt on the 18th to record the first 62 in any major championship catching the edge of the cup and staying out.
The resulting 63 was the 28th such score in majors and the first in the Open since Rory McIlroy’s opening round at St Andrews in 2010, which the Northern Irishman famously followed with an 80 in winds gusting up to 40 miles per hour which forced play to be suspended.
However, Mickelson was never in danger of suffering such a fate as a testing early breeze swiftly died and allowed him to extend his overnight lead to five shots with birdies on the fourth, seventh and eighth, the latter coming after his tee shot on the ‘Postage Stamp’ span back to within inches of the hole.
“That was really a salty little shot,” explained Mickelson, who wore a black all-weather glove on each hand to combat the intermittent downpours.
“I had a sand wedge and drove it back there to try and skid it back to the hole and you can see the delayed juice kick in.”
Wayward drives on the 12th and 15th led to Mickelson’s first bogeys of the championship and meant Stenson closed the gap to a single stroke thanks to a superb 65, his lowest score in the Open by two shots.
“I haven’t been in contention for the last six majors and it was a big, big goal of mine to try and be up there and give myself a chance. So far, so good,” the 40-year-old said.
“I’m not going to play these tournaments forever and ever. I don’t have another 50 goes at them. It might be a dozen or 15 in total so I better start putting myself in position and giving myself chances if I want to make it happen.”
Keegan Bradley famously won the 2011 US PGA Championship on his first appearance in a major and partnered Mickelson to four wins from five Ryder Cup matches in 2012 and 2014.
But after arriving in Scotland ranked 120th in the world, the 30-year-old decided the best way to get his name on the leaderboard was to put it there himself on Monday evening.
”I actually snuck up on the leaderboard on 18 with a couple of guys and we put our names up,” Bradley revealed after a 68 left him three off the lead alongside Denmark’s Soren Kjeldsen.
”I’m probably going to get in trouble for that and probably shouldn’t have said it. But it is fun to see my name up there next to Phil’s now. It’s just awesome.
“Because everyone’s wondering, I always get the question, ‘What’s wrong with you or something?’ And there’s nothing wrong. I’m just working. It may not happen this week but I know it’s going to. It’s feeling good.”
Defending champion Zach Johnson dropped two shots in the last four holes to finish five off the lead, a shot ahead of a five-strong group containing England’s Andrew Johnston and Spain’s Sergio Garcia.
Follow Day One of The Open LIVE with our leaderboard as the world’s best golfers vie for the third major of the year at Royal Troon.
Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy again find themselves among the favourites to lift the famous Claret Jug. Check out all the developments from Day One below:
Whether it was an afterthought or a blatant attempt to prove a point, the three words uttered by Rory McIlroy in a press conference on Tuesday – ‘stuff that matters’ – potentially wrecked thousands of hours of hard work and perseverance by men and women infinitely wiser than him.
We get it that he doesn’t want to go to Rio for the Olympics. But to say he is going to watch the ‘stuff that matters’ and not golf from Brazil was a step too far for someone who is viewed as the heir apparent to Tiger Woods as the man likely to lead the sport to a new level.
Instead, he could have inflicted a hammer blow with a comment which showed a surprising lack of maturity. McIlroy’s brutal honesty has been one of his endearing qualities, but this didn’t come across as him just calling a spade a spade.
Either he didn’t really mean what he said during the press conference or perhaps he was being economical with the truth the day he withdrew from the Games, citing concerns about the Zika virus.
Listening to the Northern Irishman on Tuesday, he gave the distinct impression tht he just did not agree with golf being part of the Olympics. Perhaps that then, and not Zika, was the real reason he pulled out. If this is what he thought all along, he could have made his feelings known to the In- ternational Golf Federation a long time ago. He could have done what Adam Scott did and not embarrass them in the manner he has done.
Legends of the game like Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Annika Sorenstam, Tiger Woods, Padraig Harrington and respected administrators like Peter Dawson and Ty Votaw, and millions of golfers in countries as far-flung as China, India and Argentina have dreamt of golf in the Olympics for a reason. It really is one of the greatest opportunities to grow the sport.
Either he got up from the wrong side of the bed, or he took exception to something that the IGF members said the day before, but McIlroy almost seemed intent on ensuring that 2016 will be the last time golf is part of the five-ringed sporting extravaganza.
McIlroy’s comment is also extremely disrespectful to 120 of his colleagues, who have shown far greater courage and gumption than him to commit to the Games and travel despite the danger.
The four-time major champion has opened his mouth without engaging his brain before, and regretted it at a later date. Remember his famous comments about the Ryder Cup being nothing more than exhibition matches? Well, he quickly changed his opinion after playing the tournament in 2010.
Hopefully, McIlroy will do something similar after giving Olympic golf a chance. Perhaps he should experience that incredible feeling of walking under the national flag during the march past before turning his back on the Olympics.
McIlroy was also wrong to say he got into the game to win golf tournaments, not grow the game.
While he may have worked the hardest to achieve all the success, there are many people and factors play small but significant roles in the whole process.
Like Peter Parker was reminded, perhaps it is time for someone to tell McIlroy… ‘With great power, comes great responsibility…”