Why Phil Mickelson is excited for more wind; and the stat that portends him winning a fourth Masters

April 06, 2017
The Masters - Round One

Rob Carr

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Phil Mickelson's putt hugged the fringe like a pool ball riding the rail. When it finally broke free of the longer grass, Augusta National's undulation provided what was essentially a carom, sending his golf ball sharply left—and with a lot of steam. Fortunately, the back of the cup caught it.

"WOO! Did you see that?!" a fan screamed at one of his friends. "Did you see that?!" he asked another patron in a packed area to the left of the second green. And then another. "Did you SEE that?!"

Yes, they saw it. And everyone on the grounds at that moment heard it.

Mickelson's 40-footer for eagle on No. 2 provided the first loud roar of the week at the 2017 Masters. It was also likely the loudest reaction from the patrons during a windy day of difficult scoring.

"Oh, that was cool," said Mickelson, who hung on to shoot a one-under-par 71 to place him T-4 after Day 1. "To make a putt on 2 for eagle and get the round started like that was exciting. But I knew that there were still a lot of tough holes left out there and just trying to make pars was kind of the goal. And then take advantage of some of the par 5s."

As Mickelson explained, he also took advantage of the blustery conditions.

"I love it," Mickelson gushed. "I love it around here especially because the wind is going to magnify your misses and a lot of the guys that aren't familiar with this course and where you can go to on certain holes for certain pins will miss in the wrong spot and end up making big numbers. And because it's, because I played here so many times and just kind of know where to go, I might miss it big, but I'll miss it in the right spot and I'll have a good chance to salvage par."

Mickelson, 46, is seeking a fourth green jacket this week. And if he's able to pull it off, he would break Jack Nicklaus' mark for the oldest Masters champion. Even with that piece of history working against him, though, the stats are actually on his side.

The last two times Mickelson was in the top five after the first round (2006 and 2010) at the Masters he won. And the only other four times Mickelson put himself in that good of position after Day 1, he wound up with three third-place finishes and a T-7. In other words, there's a good chance he's still going to be in contention come Sunday.

And the wind, at least for Friday, has his back, too. The forecast calls for nearly identical playing conditions—a high of 67 degrees and 20-30 mile-per-hour winds.