Phil Mickelson one shot off lead; Tiger Woods in the hunt after opening round of the Masters 

AUGUSTA, Ga. — At even par after 11 holes, Phil Mickelson was middle of the pack which is exactly where you might expect to find a 48-year-old Masters champ. But he will start play Friday just one shot off the lead after recording birdies on 12, 13, 15, 16 and 18 to shoot 67.

“It looked like after bogeying 10 and 11, that would kill some momentum,” Mickelson said, “It was the other way around because that should have and could have been double bogeys. Those were almost momentum maintainers, and then when I got to the holes I could birdie, I took advantage of it.”

Whatever the cause he delighted the crowd with a short birdie putt after bombing his drive on the uphill 18th.

Asked what he hit into the green, Mickelson said: “Wedge. Yeah, I’m hitting it decently long.”

So is SMU-ex Bryson DeChambeau who had only to tap in a birdie on 18 after hitting the pin with a much longer second shot. DeChambeau and Koepka are tied for the lead at 66.

Woods in the hunt: Sometimes word of mouth can be a powerful thing. It may have been heard on one of the broadcasts here but for whatever reason, word went around the Masters press room that Woods has shot 70 in the first round of all four of his victories here. It’s not true. He did shoot 70 in his first three but won in 2005 after opening with a 74.

But you never know who’s going to believe these things, especially after Woods carded a 70 Thursday.

“It’s not a bad start. I’ve shot 70 the four times that I’ve won here,” Woods said.

Oh well. Regardless, Woods had a solid day to tie a big group of players for 11th, four shots off the pace.

One of them is the man who beat him in the match play quarterfinals in Austin, Denmark’s Lucas Bjerregaard. Another is a man who must think this game has become incredibly easy. Corey Conners was a Monday qualifier in San Antonio before winning the Valero Open last week to earn a spot in the Masters.

On Thursday, Conners eagled the par-5 13th to get to 3 under par and briefly hold the Masters lead by himself.

Long, long day: Can golf get any slower? Jordan Spieth, Brooks Koepka and Paul Casey were the last to tee off at 2 p.m. Eastern Thursday. They walked off the 18th green at 7:30 p.m. Paul McGinley, a 2002 European Ryder Cup hero and now a broadcaster for Sky Sports said, “Something’s got to be done about it. It’s disappointing in a showcase.”

Twitter: @TimCowlishaw

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