Mickelson turns up pressure early

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland -- When he reached the end of his practice round, Phil Mickelson could only chuckle.

"You think anyone has ever grinded this hard on a Monday?" he said.

It was only a practice round at the British Open, and a high-stakes game with Dustin Johnson and Nick Watney. But it was high entertainment at the end, even for Mickelson.

The threesome had side bet on stroke play, with the loser paying the winner (whoever finished second was off the hook). Johnson roared out to a big lead, turning in 3 under, until the back nine tripped him up. Mickelson surged to a big lead until back-to-back bogeys, then a tee shot so far left on the 17th he thought he wouldn't find it.

Watney also was in the rough, searching for his ball. That led Mickelson to wonder aloud, "Has anyone ever gone back to the tee for losing a ball in a practice round?"

Lefty found his ball and salvaged a bogey, sending him to the 18th at 1 under -- two shots ahead of Johnson and Watney.

"I could make a 1 here. That would help," Johnson said, and it wasn't clear if he was kidding. After all, he does hit it a long way.

Mickelson, again disproving the theory that his course management is lacking, hammered a driver toward the first tee and was safe. It came down to Johnson and Watney to see who had to pay. Watney holed a 10-foot birdie putt, and Johnson matched him from 8 feet.

They tied at 72. The question was whether they split the tab or had a chip-off.

"You should have figured that out on No. 2," Mickelson said, making it clear he never expected to lose this game. They headed toward the Valley of Sin with their putters, even as a single behind them, Paul Streeter, was coming up the 18th.

"He's getting in the way of our game," one of the caddies said.

Watney and Johnson both got up-and-down with 8-foot putts when Watney suggested they split the cost of losing.

"I don't split," Johnson replied.

On the second putt-off, Watney came up short and Johnson made his 4-footer. Pay up, Nick.

Then it was off to the range, not nearly as much fun.