AKRON — He was in the Buckeye state, but his head was still in Scotland.
Phil Mickelson, yet to escape a British Open hangover, shot a 2-over 72 and was stuck in the middle of the pack Thursday after the first round of the Bridgestone Invitational.
“Today I had a hard time focusing,” said Mickelson, who missed 3-foot par putts on the sixth and seventh holes. “Mentally I wasn’t sharp. I could tell I was a little bit tired or I just wasn’t able to see the shot clearly. I just had a hard time visualizing and seeing the shot today.”
No one could really blame Mickelson for hanging on to thoughts of his last tournament. He climbed from well off the pace Sunday, birdieing four of the final six holes for a stirring victory in the British Open at Muirfield two weeks ago.
Mickelson spent time at home with his family after flying overseas after the stunning triumph, his fifth major championship, and also went to Oak Hill to prepare for next week’s final major of the year, the PGA Championship. He came to Firestone Country Club saying he wanted to use his time in Ohio to concentrate on his game.
Even though he felt he was focused on the task at hand, he understood how he could be distracted after such a remarkable win.
Asked if he had found it difficult to deal with the next tournament after winning a major, he said he’d been down this road before.
“I am aware of it. I’ll try to make sure I’m a bit more rested and sharp heading into the weekend,” he said. “But it does happen. It’s a good problem to have.”
It rained overnight, deadening the greens just enough so that the first players off the tee could take advantage by tossing shots directly at the flags.
“It’s soft,” Ryan Moore said after a 66. “The greens are receptive, so you can hit 5-irons and 4-irons into the greens and stop them around the hole. It (the course) was longer, but still scoreable.”
Some of those who had practiced all week on a relatively dry and fast layout said the rain didn’t make things easier, but harder.
“I played quite a nice shot and it lands quite dead,” said English pro Chris Wood, making his first appearance ever at the Bridgestone. “It didn’t release as far as I thought.”