Mickelson makes the grade at U.S Open

Back to back hole-in-ones

Back to back hole-in-ones

(CNN) — It started with an overnight flight and a thunderstorm — it finished with a place at the top end of the leaderboard.

Phil Mickelson would dearly love to win the U.S. Open, having finished as runner-up on five occasions, but not even the lure of Merion was enough to keep him away from his daughter’s eighth-grade graduation.

The four-time major champion missed the practice rounds on Tuesday and Wednesday to be with daughter Amanda in California before flying through the night on his private jet to Philadelphia.

Arriving in Pennsylvania at 4.15 a.m. Thursday morning, Mickelson easily made his 7.11 a.m. tee time and produced his lowest round in the U.S. Open since 1999 — which came just days before Amanda was born — with a three-under-par 67.

It gave him the clubhouse lead, though England’s former world No. 1 Luke Donald was at four under through 13 holes when the weather-interrupted day came to a close.

“I loved having an early tee time,” Mickelson, whose round was halted by a lengthy delay due to heavy rain, told reporters.

“I wish we did not have the delay because it made it a long day but the golf course is playing about as easy as it could, but Merion is fighting hard.

“It’s one of the best I’ve seen for a U.S. Open. It’s soft but we are having a hard time getting under par.”

The 42-year-old also insisted his preparation for the tournament has not been undermined by spending time back in California.

“When I was here the week before I was able to do all the work I needed, the last part was getting my game sharp so being able to do that in nice weather on a good practice facility was advantageous.”

A weather break of three hours and 32 minutes meant an inauspicious start to the 113th U.S. Open, being hosted by Merion for the first time in 32 years.

The morning starters managed just 111 minutes of play before torrential rain hit the course and forced play to be suspended.

Mickelson was tied with Australia’s 2013 Masters champion Adam Scott, who had played 11 holes, while defending champion Webb Simpson was tied for fourth on two under through eight.

World No. 3 Scott was playing with No. 1 Tiger Woods, who was two over after 10 holes, and No. 2 Rory McIlroy — tied for 16th on even par through 11.

Woods, who will need to play 25 holes on Friday, shrugged off suggestions he had hurt his wrist while hitting out of the rough.

“It’s fine,” said the 14-time major champion, who has a four-foot par putt to complete his 11th hole.

“I’ve got a lot of holes to play tomorrow. And hopefully, I can play a little better than I did today.”

Meanwhile, Sergio Garcia revealed he was heckled by “a couple of guys” during his opening round of 73.

His jibe last month that he would invite Tiger Woods round for “fried chicken” during the U.S. Open led to an immediate and unreserved apology from the Spaniard, who denied it was racially motivated.

Woods took to Twitter to register his disappointment with the remarks, calling them “wrong, hurtful and clearly inappropriate.”

The two men shook hands on Monday and Garcia has sent Woods a note, but he confirmed he had yet to hear from the American.

Woods, 37 has not won a major since he won the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in 2008 where he defeated Rocco Mediate on a playoff while playing with a broken leg.

A 15th major victory would take him to within three of all-time record of 18 set by Jack Nicklaus, whose final triumph came at the 1986 Masters at Augusta.

Among the early finishers, 2012 Masters winner Bubba Watson and his U.S. Ryder CUp teammates Dustin Johnson and Steve Stricker all ended on one-over for the day after rounds of 71.

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