US Open First Round Leader: Take a chance on Mickelson

American Phil Mickelson
Phil Mickelson can turn it on in the opening round

Dave Tindall has three selections to make a fast start at Winged Foot in the second major of 2020...

"A runner-up in the WGC-St Jude Championship at the start of August, he opened with 67 there to lie T9 after round one. And in last year's majors, Mickelson was third after the opening lap at The Masters and T9 following Thursday's play at the US PGA."

Each-way terms: 1/5 odds, 7 places

Weather forecast for Winged Foot Golf Club: It's a pleasant day at Winged Foot, with temperatures around 70 degrees for the very early starters and the gauge rising to around 85 in the afternoon. Wind speeds are pretty steady all day at around 7-9mph.

First-round leader history in US Opens:

2019 - Justin Rose
2018 - Russell Henley, Dustin Johnson, Scott Piercy, Ian Poulter (69)
2017 - Rickie Fowler (65)
2016 - Andrew Landry (66)
2015 - Dustin Johnson, Henrik Stenson (65)
2014 - Martin Kaymer (65)
2013 - Phil Mickelson (67)
2012 - Michael Thompson (66)

First-round leader history in majors at Winged Foot:

2006 - Colin Montgomerie (69)
1997 - Davis Love, John Daly (66)


For the record, of the last 16 first-round leaders at the US Open, eight were morning starters and eight came from the afternoon wave. The weather doesn't particularly guide us in one direction either beyond the ball maybe flying a bit more in the hotter p.m. conditions. Overall, the draw shouldn't make much of a difference so I'll pick freely without fretting about tee-times.

Mickelson can produce early magic

Phil Mickelson has some notable history at Winged Foot after finishing runner-up at the New York course in the 2006 US Open.

Much water has gone under the bridge since then and Mickelson has now made his Champions Tour debut.

That was a winning one just two starts ago and he opened with a sensational 61.

Obviously, such a number isn't possible this week but I still think Phil can turn it on for 18 holes and, with a bit of luck, that will be in his first round.

The first-round leader at the 2013 US Open, Mickelson's superb record in the tournament (six second places) isn't because he hits it straight.

Rather, it's because he has an amazing short game and the good news is that those skills around the green haven't left him.

At last week's Safeway Open, Lefty ranked fourth for Scrambling (81.8%) so hopefully he can bring that sharpness to Winged Foot.

A runner-up in the WGC-St Jude Championship at the start of August, he opened with 67 there to lie T9 after round one.

And in last year's majors, Mickelson was third after the opening lap at The Masters and T9 following Thursday's play at the US PGA.

It's a bit of a punt but there's enough logic to think he might just pull something out of the bag from his 13:27 afternoon tee-time.

Take the 80/1.

Put R1 chips on Mackenzie

Again, with short-game in mind, I'll roll the dice with 100/1 shot Mackenzie Hughes.

The 29-year-old has been put in an all-Canadian three-ball on Thursday morning alongside Adam Hadwin and Corey Conners.

That should relax him and allow Hughes to ride the confidence he picked up during the FedEx Cup Playoffs.

After impressing with third at the Travelers Championship and sixth at Memorial, he then went 13-10-7 at the Northern Trust, BMW Championship and Tour Championship.

He ranked in the top five for Scrambling in the final two and was 6th for SG: Around The Green last season.

Mackenzie Hughes.jpg

After going 0-for-4 in majors, he shot middle rounds of 68-69 when making the cut in the US PGA at Harding Park last month so, with that barrier removed, I'm hoping he can thrive.

Hughes has been the first-round leader in the last two editions of the Travelers Championship (60 this year and 64 in 2019) and showed he could make an early impact on a tough layout when grinding out a 69 to lie third after 18 holes of the BMW Championship three weeks ago.

Take the 100/1 on the 08:29 starter.

Munoz holds appeal

I'll make a similar argument for Sebastian Munoz, another morning starter put in at a three-figure price.

He too was one of the quiet stars of the Playoffs after T18 at The Northern Trust, T8 at the BMW Championship and T7 at the Tour Championship.

In the latter two, he was in the top five after day one while the Colombian was third following R1 at The Heritage.

Munoz, who was runner-up at the Korn Ferry's LECOM Health Challenge on his last visit to New York, was second for SG: Around The Green at the BMW while he's been in the top 22 for SG: Off The Tee in his last three events.

He hit over two thirds of the fairways (Rank: 2nd) at East Lake two weeks ago and everything looked to be working well, hence his 1st place on the All-Around stats.

This is a step up but he remains under the radar and could be a surprise name on the leaderboard from his 08:40 tee time.

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