INVERNESS, Scotland — Phil Mickelson quickly hit his stride at the Scottish Open on Thursday, shooting 6-under 66 to sit two strokes off John Parry's early first-round lead.
Rebounding from a three-putt for bogey on his first hole, Mickelson breezed around the Castle Stuart course under blue skies and little wind to post six birdies and an eagle at No. 12.
The eighth-ranked American is seeking a first win in Europe in 20 years, while using the event as practice for next week's British Open at Muirfield.
"It's great for me to get off to a decent start because I have gotten off to poor starts the last couple of years here, and I have been fighting just to make the cut and get into reasonable contention," said the four-time major winner. "Many of my great rounds in the past have started with a bogey, so I wasn't too worried."
The highest-ranked player in the field, Mickelson chose some competitive play the week before the Open — unlike Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott. He called the forgiving course "stupendous" on Wednesday.
"It gives you a chance to hit all the shots we'll play next week — to have bump-and-run iron shots into the green, to run shots up, putt off the green ... but not get beat up the week before," Mickelson said. "You can only handle so much punishment the week before the Open when the rough is so thick and the penalty for a miss is so great."
Fresh off missing the cut at the Greenbrier Classic last week after finishing runner-up again at the U.S. Open last month, Mickelson was muttering to himself after his bogey at No. 10 — his first hole. But a 15-foot eagle putt at No. 12 gave him some momentum that was built upon with three birdies around the turn.