NORTON, Mass. — Phil Mickelson caused a minor commotion with his pants and his putter.
The Deutsche Bank Champion began Friday with two players on opposite ends of the world ranking — Luke Donald at No. 1, Troy Matteson at No. 207 — having their lowest opening round of the year on the PGA Tour that was important to both of them for different reasons.
Matteson, facing elimination from the FedEx Cup playoffs, overcame a bogey on the first hole for a 6-under 65 and the outright lead after the first round. Donald, struggling of late to get off to a good start, had a 66 and was among those one shot behind.
Through it all, Mickelson brought attention to himself for two items that looked out of place.
The day after he took batting practice at Fenway Park and wore a Red Sox jersey while throwing out the first pitch before the Yankees’ 4-2 win, Mickelson wore pinstripes at the TPC Boston.
“Lost a wager with a friend and had to wear these today,” Mickelson said. “What can you say? I’ve got to suck it up and bear it.”
Stranger still was the sight of Mickelson sticking the grip of a long putter into his gut.
Mickelson became the latest to try a belly putter, and while he still missed his share of putts in a round of 70, he sounded as though he was willing to stick with it — at least for the rest of the week.
“I thought it went well,” said Mickelson, who opened with back-to-back birdie putts of just inside 10 feet. “I feel that I’m probably putting better with that putter than I would be the short putter, so I’ll end up using it for the rest of the tournament I would anticipate. But I don’t know if it’s a short term or long term thing. But it feels good.”
Matteson understands the short term.
He is No. 97 in the FedEx Cup standings, knowing that only the top 70 advance to the third event outside Chicago, and that he’d better play well this week or he’ll be heading home for the rest of the playoffs.
His expectations were not terribly high, and they kept sinking when he had a poor session on the practice range, then took bogey on the first hole. It all turned around so suddenly.
“If I don’t play well, then I’m not going to play next week,” he said. “I look at it like the end of the school year. The end of the school year is almost here, so let’s just see what happens. Your expectations probably lower a little bit. Then all of a sudden, you make a few birdies and it’s like, ’Well, that’s not too bad.’ Then you make a few more.
“By the end of the day, you’re thinking, ’Gosh, how in the world did that day turn out the way it did?”’
The 65 was his best opening round of the year, and he can only hope it leads to better things. He had a playoff loss in Puerto Rico and only one other top 10 this year.
Matteson was one shot clear of Donald, Masters champion Charl Schwartzel, former PGA champion Y.E. Yang and Jerry Kelly. The group at 67 included Nick Watney, a two-time winner this year, while Dustin Johnson followed his playoff win at The Barclays with a 68 that left him disappointed — he made bogey on both par 5s on his back nine.