Woods, Mickelson appreciated the company, if not the round

LOUISVILLE — Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, who have won 19 majors between them, played together Thursday as a throng of fans followed them and Padraig Harrington around Valhalla.

Mickelson and Woods seemed to enjoy each other's company, at least early in the day before Woods' game went south.

"Unfortunately, Phil and I just never get paired together," Woods said. "It happens so rarely the first two days. It's always fun to play with him."

Mickelson appreciated the PGA for pairing them together. "That's cool," he said.

Mickelson's opening tee shot almost went out of bounds — "Horrific," he said — but he rallied and carded a 2-under 69 when he birdied two of his last three holes.

Woods never found his rhythm. He didn't look like his back gave him any problems, but his loose iron play and undependable driver contributed to a 3-over 74.

"A lot of bad shots and I never got a putt to the hole," he said. "Well, it is what it is. I had the same opportunity as everybody else and just didn't get it done."

J.B. & Kenny

J.B. Holmes climbed the leaderboard midway through his first round Thursday. He got to 4-under par with birdies at the 10th and 11th holes. But his drive on the 13th found a divot and that led to a double bogey.

Holmes did birdie the 18th to finish with a 68.

"I played really well all day but just got a bad break on that one hole," he said.

Kenny Perry birdied the first hole, but never could sustain any momentum on his way to a 1-over 72.

"I struggled all day," he said. "I didn't play bad. I didn't play good. I three-putted a couple times from places that killed me."

Early exit for Dufner

Defending PGA champ Jason Dufner called it quits after taking a triple-bogey 8 on the 10th hole. Dufner said neck problems forced him to withdraw. He was 8-over par.

"I've been feeling pretty bad all week," he said. "I felt bad last week. I haven't made a birdie in 45 holes ... I don't need to be out here. I tried to do what I could to be able to compete some and give it a go, but it is just pointless."

Matt Kuchar withdrew before his tee time because of back spasms. John Huh took his place as the next alternate and shot a 78.

Kentucky connection

J.B. Holmes and Kenny Perry aren't the only Kentuckians in this PGA.

Brian Norman, who played high school golf at Henderson County (and in college at John A. Logan and Southern Illinois), was one of 20 club pros who qualified for a trip to Valhalla. Norman plays out of The Lakes of Castle Hills in Lewisville, Texas.

Norman, 32, admitted he had jitters when he was the first player to tee off in Thursday's opening round at Valhalla. "I did get it airborne and somehow in the fairway, which was awesome."

Norman struggled to a 6-over par 41 on the front nine, but steadied himself and shot a 37 on the back to finish with a 7-over 78.

Norman had his share of supporters who made the trip from Henderson.

"I have so much family and friends here, and teammates from college. Kind of a homecoming for me, which has been fantastic."

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