Blast from past as Mickelson opens with 64 at Quail Hollow

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Phil Mickelson watches his tee shot on the sixth hole during the first round of the Wells Fargo Championship golf tournament at Quail Hollow on Thursday, May 6, 2021, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Phil Mickelson has gone nine months since he finished among the top 20, and it looks as though that streak is about to end at the Wells Fargo Championship.

The 50-year-old Mickelson kept his focus Thursday at Quail Hollow and blistered the course for a 7-under 64 to build a two-shot lead after the opening round. All but one of his eight birdies were inside about 5 feet.

Mickelson ran off five birdies in a six-hole stretch around the turn. He closed with two birdies and a superb par save on the par-4 ninth for his best score since a 63 in the second round of the Travelers Championship last June.

Lefty missed the cut last week in the Valspar Championship and said he was concerned about losing concentration and dropping shots during stretches of a round. That wasn't an issue at Quail Hollow, a course he loves for its mixture of birdie holes and tough par holes.

“The biggest thing for me was I was able to say in the present and focus on each shot,” Mickelson said. “My mind has been prone to wander.”

K.H. Lee had a 66 in the morning, while Innisbrook runner-up Keegan Bradley had a 66 in the afternoon.

The group at 67 included former U.S. Open champion Gary Woodland, Tommy Fleetwood and Keith Mitchell, who reached 6 under until a sloppy double bogey on the long par-3 sixth hole and closed with a bogey. Still, Mitchell was 15 shots better than his previous round, an 82 on Sunday at Innisbrook.

Mickelson attributed most of the fun to his grouping of everyman Joel Dahmen (68) and old-soul Lanto Griffin, who struggled to a 75 as he tries to secure a spot in the U.S. Open.