Mickelson among leaders after opening round
By Tim Schmitt, Niagara Gazette
July 23, 2009
For one sizzling back nine, Niagara Falls Country Club played the role of safe haven for Tim Mickelson on Wednesday.
The wife of his well-known brother has been fighting through a publicized battle with breast cancer. His mother underwent surgery in a Houston hospital just a week ago for the same ailment.
And while Mickelson said both have been ever-present in his thoughts, the 32-year-old mid-amateur cast his worries aside and fired a scorching 30 after the turn to finish the opening day of the 51st Annual Porter Cup with a 64. Mickelson finished the day tied with Aussie Brandan Smith and incoming University of Texas freshman Cody Gribble on a day in which wet weather led to soft greens and 29 players sitting below par. Mid-amateur Nathan Smith finished one shot back with a 65 while Mark Anderson and Robert Rohanna were tied for fifth with rounds of 66.
Other notables who are with striking range include former champs Brian Harman (1-under 69) and Adam Mitchell (70), Drew Weaver (68) and Kevin Tway (69). The second round is scheduled for today at NFCC.
“I really came in with no expectations. I hadn’t touched a club in 10 days until Tuesday,” said Mickelson, who is making his sixth Porter Cup appearance. “With Amy’s surgery and my mom’s surgery the practice round was going to be the first time I’d had a chance to play, and it was basically rained out and I only player three holes. Right now I’ve been able to put things in perspective with everything that’s been going on.
“Obviously, bad shots don’t really mean anything. I’m not stressing over it.”
Mickelson followed his only blunder of the day, a bogey on the par-4 No. 9 where he “got a little greedy,” with long putts on No. 10 and 11. He added a tap-in birdie on No. 13 after just missing an eagle putt, then birdied Nos. 16 and 17 to put his name at the top of the leaderboard.
“I just happened to putt well,” said Mickelson, who’s entering his seventh season as the head coach of the University of San Diego men’s golf team. “I made a lot of 15 and 20 footers and that’ll make a difference.”
Mickelson wasn’t the only one taking advantage of the ripe conditions.
Gribble followed a 20-foot birdie putt on No. 7 with a monstrous 35-footer on No. 8. That gave the Dallas native a 31 before the turn and put him in contention.
“This summer I’ve been hitting the ball well, but I started hitting some putts and that’s been my weakness,” Gribble said. “I got some confidence. When you start making putts like that it boosts your confidence and you start believing in yourself. If I keep this up, that’s great, but we still have 54 holes to play.
“But it’s out there.”
Meanwhile, Brendan Smith used an eagle on the 554-yard No. 11 to kickstart his back nine. Smith finished with a 31 on the back and sees more of the same from the talented field if the conditions stay the same today.
“The greens and fairways are so soft that nothing’s running into the rough. And the rough is where you can get in trouble. That makes it pretty easy,” he said.
And as for his spot atop the board, Smith said there’s no reason to get excited just yet.
“You can’t win it in the first round, but you can lose it,” he said. “So I’m pretty happy with where I’m at.”