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Published: 14:56 | 14/7/16

Mickelson on fire at Royal Troon

American equals major record

Phil Mickelson went agonisingly close to making major championship history as he set the pace on the opening day of the 145th Open Championship at Royal Troon.

Mickelson had an opportunity to post the lowest ever score in a major championship but his putt at the 18th lipped out and the American had to settle for a opening 63 to equal the lowest score in a major.

The former champion took full advantage of the perfect conditions at Royal Troon, carding four birdies on the front nine and four more on the back nine to sign for an eight-under 63 and a three shot lead heading into the second day.

It could have been better for Mickelson as he was left with a 15-foot putt for biride on the 18th which would have seen him end the day on nine-under but his effort caught the edge of the hole and lipped out to leave the 46-year-old to rue what might have been.

"This was pretty heartbreaking," Mickelson said of his near miss.

"I had this right in the centre of the hole with a foot to go and it was perfect speed. I don't understand what just happened. It moved....I don't understand.

"To have played this round and walk away feeling like I want to cry is a very awkward feeling.

"I noticed it last week at Castle Stuart, I knew my swing was back on plane and started to feel easy and that's what it was like today.

"The only bad shot I hit all day was the tee shot on 18, I was fortunate to get away with it. And we had great weather. I've been here 11 days and I've never seen a day like this when the wind was calm and the sun was out."

Earlier Patrick Reed carded an opening 66 for a five-under-par total to hold the clubhouse lead.

There was plenty of scope of good scoring on the front nine and Reed took full advantage of the perfect conditions at the Scottish venue by holing his approach to the par-four third before picking up birdies at the fourth, sixth and seventh holes.

Having reached the turn in 31, Reed dropped his first shot of the day at the tenth but he recovered with a birdie on the 12th only to bogey the 13th. Four successive pars followed before he birdied the last for a five-under-par total.

"It's one of these golf courses where you feel like you have to go out and make a ton of birdies early," Reed told Sky Sports. "But at the same time, if you get too aggressive then you can make a lot of big numbers so what I tried to was, I played pretty conservative through the first six or seven holes.

"Then it just happened that I holed out a wedge shot, hit a couple of good iron shots and rolled in a couple of puts. The key this week isn't so much the front as it is the back nine. The back nine here, if it plays into the wind, is brutal."

Martin Kaymer is also five-under after a bogey-free round, which included three birdies on the front nine and two on his way home.

Eight players are in a share of fourth on four-under, including Justin Thomas, Steve Stricker, and defending champion Zach Johnson.

Thomas began his round with four consecutive birdies and he picked up another shot on the seventh to reach the turn in 31.

Like Reed, the American bogeyed the tenth to drop back to four-under but he made amends with a birdie on the 13th. A double-bogey on the 15th saw him slip down the leaderboard but a closing birdie ensured he finished on four-under.

"The front nine was definitely scoreable, the wind is in a good direction and it wasn't too heavy so you had to get on those on the front nine," he explained.

"I put myself in good spots off the tee and gave myself a lot of chances and it was nice to make the turn like that.

"It was great [to end with a birdie] after I felt like I was grinding throughout the back nine just to salvage pars and bogeys and doubles even.

Justin Rose is a shot further back after an opening 68, which included four birdies and one bogey.

Meanwhile, 2014 winner Rory McIlroy carded a two-under 69 to leave him three shots off the clubhouse lead and tied with Rickie Fowler.

After a slow start, McIlroy birdied four of his final five holes on the front nine to move into a share of the lead but the back nine was to prove his undoing.

A double-bogey six at the par-four 13th was followed by a bogey on the next hole but he recovered one of his dropped shots with a birdie on the 15th. He parred his way home for a two-under 69.

More to follow

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