sport

Mickelson happy with start

Open champion Phil Mickelson was satisfied with a typically entertaining opening round in the defence of his Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open title on Thursday.

Mickelson carded an eagle, two birdies and one bogey for a three-under-par 68 at windswept Royal Aberdeen, which left him four shots behind leader Rory McIlroy, who returned a course-record 64.

After insisting he would relish the tough conditions which were forecast, Mickelson was as good as his word and fired an eagle on the par-five sixth and birdies on the 12th and 13th, the latter coming after a 98-yard wedge shot played off a cart path to within 10 feet of the hole.

The only blemish on the left-hander's card was a three-putt bogey on the 18th, while he was also involved in a lengthy discussion with rules officials on the 10th when a gust of wind moved his ball while on his backswing.

That would previously have resulted in a penalty, but an exception to Rule 18-2b which came into effect in January 2012 "exonerates the player from penalty if his ball moves after it has been addressed when it is known or virtually certain that he did not cause the ball to move. For example, if it is a gust of wind that moves the ball after it has been addressed, there is no penalty and the ball is played from its new position."

"The conditions were tough and I was surprised to see some of those low scores," Mickelson said after his round. "But I feel like I played well and had a good putting day until the last. It's a good first day."

Mickelson won his first tournament on British soil at Castle Stuart 12 months ago and went on to win the Open Championship at the 20th attempt a week later at Muirfield.

The 44-year-old added: "I think Royal Aberdeen is a great links test and a great way to get ready for the British Open, but so was Castle Stuart.

"I love that the Scottish Open is moving to these different courses (expected to be Gullane in 2015 and back to Castle Stuart in 2016) to give a player like me a chance to see some great, great golf."