HUMBLE, Texas (AP) – Phil Mickelson finished a 7-under 65 early Friday to move into contention at the rain-delayed Houston Open.
The defending champion completed only three holes Thursday before an afternoon thunderstorm forced the suspension of the first round. Angel Cabrera and Carl Pettersson posted 65s early Thursday to share the overnight lead.
Mickelson resumed his round at daybreak and birdied both par 5s on the front nine. He strung together eight consecutive one-putt greens before two-putting on No. 10. He then sank a 10-footer for birdie on the par-4 12th.
“The greens were immaculate,” he said. “If you get it in the surface, you’d feel like you’d make the putts.”
Three-time major champion Ernie Els, who must win to qualify for next week’s Masters, completed a 2-under 70 on Friday morning.
Tournament director Steve Timms said Thursday’s storm dumped 1 1/4 inches of rain on Redstone. The players enjoyed sunny skies and calm conditions Friday morning, though Mickelson said the balls were picking up mud when they hit the fairways.
Officials were allowing players to lift, clean and place their balls in the second round.
Mickelson said a bit of mud on his ball caused an errant approach shot to the par-5 13th, leading to his only bogey of his first round.
“There’s not much you can do about that,” Mickelson said.
Mickelson played with Fred Couples, who won on the Champions Tour last week. Couples, who played at the University of Houston and has made 18 consecutive cuts at the event, shot a 5-under 67.
Ricky Barnes and Houston resident Jeff Maggert completed 66s Thursday. Greg Owen and John Huh each finished 66s Friday morning. Defending PGA champion Keegan Bradley and 2010 British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen joined Couples in the group at 5 under.
Mickelson birdied the par-5 15th, then holed a pitch from behind the 16th green. He was to start his second round an hour after finishing his first, and didn’t mind the long day ahead.