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Mickelson stumbles to opening 77 in Houston

  • Story Highlights
  • World number two Mickelson struggling to make cut in Houston Open
  • Mickelson challenging Tiger Woods for top spot in the rankings
  • Veterans Fred Couples and Greg Norman well-placed after first round
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(CNN) -- Phil Mickelson's hopes of a third successive victory on the PGA Tour all but disappeared as he stumbled to a five-over 77 in the first round of the Houston Open.

Mickelson tees off during his opening five-over 77 in Houston.

Mickelson tees off during his opening five-over 77 in Houston.

Mickelson came into the tournament in prime form after wins in the Northern Trust Open and the WGC tournament at Doral, but hopes of a pre-Masters boost were dampened in difficult conditions in Texas.

The world number two was three-over-par when play was called off on Thursday due to high winds which saw golf balls blown off the green before they could be marked.

He made little progress on his resumption on Friday and a double bogey five on the short 7th, his 16th hole, left him well adrift of the early leaders.

By contrast, Australian veteran Greg Norman showed his liking for the conditions with a superb one-under 71 on the Redstone GC course, having had to cope with the worst of the wind for much of his round.

Norman, 54, is making a rare appearance on the main PGA Tour as he warms up for next week's U.S. Masters at Augusta.

The two-time major winner earned an invite to the first major of the season after finishing third behind Padraig Harrington in last year's British Open at Royal Birkdale in similar testing conditions.

Dubliner Harrington, aiming for a hat-trick of majors next week, also played solidly for a level-par 72 while another blast from the past Fred Couples was among the leaders after a four-under 68.

The 49-year-old former Masters champion, a winner in Houston in 2003, carded four birdies in five holes on the front nine as he completed his round on Friday.

Texan star Justin Leonard, playing in the same group as Mickelson, also shot a challenging 68.

World number one Tiger Woods, who won at Bay Hill last week to protect his ranking from the challenging Mickelson, is sitting out the tournament ahead of his bid for a 15th grand slam title next week.

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