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The Journal Gazette

Friday, June 08, 2018 1:00 am

GOLF

Mickelson 2nd after strong finish

Associated Press

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Phil Mickelson got the strong finish he wanted. Steve Stricker is having too much fun to just stick to the senior circuit.

Mickelson and Stricker shot 4-under 66 on Thursday in the St. Jude Classic, leaving them in an 11-player tie for second – a stroke behind Seamus Power of Ireland. Mickelson matched his best opening round in relation to par this season.

“Oh, it was a great start for me,” Mickelson said. “I ended up finishing off the round. I had a nice little stretch there in the middle where I went birdie, eagle, and I was able to finish it off with some pars after some poor tee shots.

“It's a good start. It's not like you're trying to win the tournament on Thursday. But it's nice not to put myself too far behind so I'm playing catch-up. So another good round tomorrow will put me right in it for the weekend.”

Power birdied his final hole for the lead over Mickelson, Stricker, U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka and others. He went to No. 18 tied with seven others atop the leader board and took the lead himself with his second birdie over his final three holes.

Stricker, 51, had a long day Monday qualifying nearby for the U.S. Open. He played only six holes Tuesday and a nine-hole pro-am Wednesday to rest up. He turned in a bogey-free round Thursday and capped his day chipping in from 34 feet for his fourth birdie.

He has two top-25 finishes in seven tournaments on the PGA Tour this season, and Stricker said he wants to show he can finish off an event.

“I still feel like I should play out here. I belong out here. I'm trying to stick with that,” said Stricker, a two-time winner this year on the PGA Tour Champions.

Koepka is preparing for his U.S. Open title defense next week at Shinnecock Hills.

Second-ranked Dustin Johnson was at 67 with Retief Goosen, Scott Stallings and seven others.