|-7 P Mickelson (United States); -5 KH Lee (Kor), K Bradley (United States); -4 P Malnati (United States), T Fleetwood (Eng), L List (United States), G Woodland (United States), K Mitchell (United States), K Stanley (United States)|
|Others selected: -2 J Thomas (United States), M Wallace (English); -1 B DeChambeau (United States), (United States), R Knox (Sco); Level S Lowry (Ire); +1 R McIlroy (NI), I Poulter (Eng), L Donald, F Molinari (Ita)Full ranking|
Rory McIlroy’s one-over-par 72 left him eight behind leader Phil Mickelson after the first round of the Wells Fargo Championship.
Northern Irishman McIlroy, who claimed his first PGA Tour victory in 2010 and triumphed again in 2015, only managed two birdies – both very early.
Shots lost in the 11th and 17th let him share 73rd and need improvement on Friday to make the cut.
Open champion Shane Lowry and fellow Irishman Seamus Power shot 71.
McIlroy, 32, fell to 15th place in the world rankings – his lowest position since 2009 – and to 51st place in the FedEx Cup rankings.
Mickelson, who now combines his PGA Tour commitments with the Champions Tour after turning 50 last year, birdied five in six holes in his first nine holes and kept his momentum going by scoring a 64.
The five-time grand winner of the PGA Tour’s most recent triumph came at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in February 2019.
Mickelson is two strokes ahead of fellow American Keegan Bradley and South Korean Kyoung Hoon Lee, with England’s Tommy Fleetwood and former US Open champion Gary Woodland in a late group three.
Meanwhile, Darren Clarke made an impressive start in the Regions Tradition Champions Tour major event in Alabama as a six-under-66 gave him a one-shot lead.
Clarke, who opened his Champions Tour of Champions account by triumphing in Florida and Hawaii in November and January, suddenly leads Canadian Stephen Ames and American Jerry Kelly.
“The majors are majors, it doesn’t make any difference on the tour. You want to play well,” said Clarke, 2011 Open champion.