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Phil Mickelson was disappointed that he didn't build on his good start Thursday. (Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Phil Mickelson was disappointed that he didn't build on his good start Thursday. (Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

After strong start, Mickelson fades on the back nine

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With his bothersome wrist finally feeling better, Phil Mickelson got off to a nice start Thursday at Southern Hills. But he wilted on the back nine, and stumbled to a 3-over 73 that left him eight strokes behind leader Graeme Storm.

TULSA, Okla. (AP) -- Phil Mickelson's wrist feels good. After finally logging some solid practice time, he thought his game was pretty good, too.

The results after one round at the PGA Championship?

Not so good.

Mickelson wilted on the back nine at Southern Hills on Thursday. He found sand, he found rough and, most damaging of all, he found himself taking a whole lot of putts on the way to a 3-over 73 that left him eight strokes behind leader Graeme Storm.

"I was certainly disappointed with the way it finished up," he said. "I feel like I'm playing better than the way I'm scoring. I've just got to turn it around."

And quickly.

A win this week would make Mickelson one of only five players to record a major victory in four consecutive years. Tiger Woods, Tom Watson, Jack Nicklaus and Walter Hagen are the others. At this point, though, making the cut at a major would be progress.

By now, pretty much the entire world knows about Mickelson's debacle last year at Winged Foot -- how his collapse cost him not only the U.S. Open, but the rest of the season.

He seemed to have regained his stride this spring. A victory at THE PLAYERS Championship in early May was his second of the season, and fifth top-5 finish of the year.

Then came Oakmont.

While practicing there on Memorial Day weekend for the U.S. Open, he hurt his left wrist hacking out of rough. Lefty still showed up for the Open -- sporting a thick, black bandage that made bowlers everywhere proud -- but he didn't stay long.

He didn't make the cut at the Open Championship, either. Throw in another miss at the AT&T National in July, and he'd missed three straight cuts on tour for the first time since 1995.

But the wrist is in good shape now. The bandage is long gone, and he doesn't even need to apply pain-numbing medicine anymore. He's been able to practice more in the last few weeks than he had the few months before that, and he came to Southern Hills with high hopes.

After all, he finished third at the PGA Championship here in 1994 and tied for seventh at the 2001 U.S. Open.

"I felt like last week and this week were going to be pretty good weeks. I thought I was going to play well and score well, because I had been able to practice and work on my game. I felt like it was really coming around," he said.

"So last week's performance was certainly disappointing," he said, referring to a tie for 46th at the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational. "And today's round wasn't what I was expecting. I really thought I was going to continue playing the way I did the first four holes."

Mickelson was actually working his way up the leaderboard early, thanks to two birdies in his first four holes. Even after back-to-back bogeys on Nos. 7 and 8, a birdie at 9 got him back to par.

When he missed a 4-footer on No. 12 and wound up three-putting, though, his round took a turn for the worse.

"You're going to make mistakes. You're going to make some bogeys here," he said. "What really hurt here was when I three-putted on 12. That took some momentum out."

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Two holes later, a 15-footer rolled long for another bogey. He had a beautiful drive on the par-4 17th, only to put his second shot in the sand. He could have saved par with yet another long putt, but it skirted the edge of the cup and refused to drop.

Another long birdie putt on 18 stopped 3 feet short.

He finished with 29 putts, and was 2 over on the par 3s.

"I'm disappointed I'm not scoring well," he said. "But on the other hand, I get to go play in the morning (Friday). The greens will be softer because the moisture seems to stay in the ground until mid- to late morning.

"And I may get off to a good start, shoot a couple under par on my front nine, get it right back to even. If I can do that, I should be in good position going into the weekend."

Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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