PGA Tour

Rejuvenated Mickelson gets his mojo back

Phil Mickelson (Getty Images)
Phil Mickelson (Getty Images)

Incheon - If there had been any lingering doubts about Phil Mickelson being given a captain's pick for the Presidents Cup, he blew them away with a mesmerising display on Thursday.

Mickelson was plucked from 30th on the US qualifying list by captain Jay Haas and justified his selection in typical style with a flawless display of golf as the Americans took a 4-1 lead after the first day's foursomes against the International team.

The veteran 45-year-old Mickelson has played in all 10 previous editions of the Presidents Cup and the last 10 Ryder Cups.

Despite a stuttering season on the PGA Tour, there is something about team play that fires him up, said playing partner Zach Johnson, who agreed that "Lefty" had his mojo back.

"I played a couple of practice rounds with him and I could see it," Johnson said after the pair defeated Australian duo of PGA Championship champion Jason Day and Steven Bowditch on the final green at the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club in Incheon, South Korea.

"With talent like that and he's got a driver he feels comfortable with, it's pretty scary. I can't think of a tee shot he missed all day. Maybe there was one. Maybe."

The highlight of the day was Mickelson holing a 45-foot trademark bunker blast for a birdie at the 13th after a rare wayward approach from the British Open champion Johnson.

"He hit exactly the shot he was talking about," said Johnson. "I don't want to say he's the best, but he's as good as I've ever seen when it comes to wedges around the green and specifically out of the sand traps. Just awesome.

"What do you say when someone does that? He just gave me a handshake and said 'wow'."

US captain Jay Haas said he was really happy for the five-time Major winner Mickelson, who has not won since the 2013 British Open two years ago.

"I was just real proud of him. I told him so," said Haas.

"He's dealt with pressure before, obviously, in many situations. Being a pick this time probably added to it a little bit. I'm happy the way he responded."

With a slender one-hole lead on 18 and Jason Day already safely in the fairway, Mickelson capped a stirring performance by launching an adrenalin-filled 350-yard drive down the par-five to leave Johnson just 186 yards from the pin.

"I thought Phil's drive at 18 was a big statement for him personally," said Haas.

"I thought they played extremely well. To beat that team was quite an accomplishment."

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