The Open 2016: Mickelson sets pace at Royal Troon

former Open winner leads the field after shooting an opening round of 63 on the Ayreshire coast.

The Open 2016: Mickelson sets pace at Royal Troon
Photo: Mike Ehrmann / Getty Images

American Phil Mickelson leads The Open Championship by three strokes overnight at -8, after carding a record-equalling Opening Round of 63 at Royal Troon

The 2013 winner at Muirfield, took advantage of wholly benign conditions on the back nine of the Ayreshire course, as the wind dropped to a mere breath for the later players during the first round. The American was denied a record low score for the opening 18 of a major tournament, after his lengthy put for a three lipped the cup and rolled out.

Compatriot Patrick Reed hit a to 65 to take the clubhouse lead for most of the day and leads the chasing pack on -5, joined by former US Open and PGA Champion Martin Kaymer. Defending champion Zach Johnson is a shot further back after bogeying the last. 

Mickelson's Thursday evening fireworks however, gave the five-time major winner a handsome lead over the duo going into Friday.

Reed sets the early pace

On a glorious morning in South-West Scotland, Reed set the early pace with a round of 66, recording six birdies with just the one bogey.

Reed shot an early clubhouse lead after carding a 66 (photo:getty)
Reed shot an early clubhouse lead after carding a 66 (photo:getty)

The San Antonio native is yet to finish inside the top 10 of a major tournament after falling away in the final rounds almost perennially. His best finish to date was tied for 14th at last years US Open at Chambers Bay. 25 year-old Reed will be keen to reverse that position.

The elements seemed to be favourable to the early groups on the course, as blue skies bathed the Ayreshire coast in perfect conditions.

McIlroy falters once more

Since his withdrawal from Rio 2016, Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy was intent on leaving an imprint at Troon. After a steady start in staying par over the first three, McIlroy birdied the 4th, 6th, 7th and 8th to lie four under and in touch with Reed after a front nine of 32. 

A former Open winner himself, McIlroy found trouble on the 13th. After laying up a club short, the Northern Irishman three-putted for a six and followed up with a bogey on the next, to drop to -1. After steadying the ship with a another birdie on 15, McIlroy closed to round of 69.

The former world number one of 95 weeks still has plenty of holes left to make an impression, but will need to convert more chances to be in contention come Sunday.

Mickelson hits the front 

It was almost out of nowhere that Phil Mickelson hit the front of the pack. After a front nine of 32, the 46 year-old crept up on the gathering at the head of the leaderboard and levelled, then extended his lead with little hesitation.

As Mickelson surged into the lead with birdies at 16 and 17, the Open champion of three years ago sensed a record of a different type.

After finding the fairway down 18, Mickelson played a delightful iron into the green with a lengthy- but makeable - putt to card a 62 and grasp history.

Mickelson's record-breaking putt lipped out at 18 (photo:getty)
Mickelson's record-breaking putt lipped out at 18 (photo:getty)

As he bared down on the putt with the world watching, the ball seemed destined for the hole, but lipped-out after swirling the cup almost 180 degrees. History was gone but his lead wasn't, taking a three-shot lead into Friday's second round.

The conditions at Troon were almost idyllic, but with the forecast for early rain tomorrow and wind throughout the weekend, the potential for more links-esque competition stands on the horizon. But the pack are already playing catchup with the big Californian.