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Mickelson in the pink after impressive comeback

Returning to work for the first time since disclosing last month that his wife has breast cancer, Phil Mickelson posted a solid two-under 68 to be four shots behind leader Brian Gay in the St Jude Classic on Thursday.

He wore a pink ribbon stitched into the side of his white cap and at times looked fatigued, but he wasted no time firing up fans with birdies on the opening two holes. Then came a sliced tee shot into the water and a nearly four-putt green. He birdied two of the last three holes.

A typical round for one of golf's most unpredictable stars. Jose Maria Olazabal was the day's surprise. Still coping with arthritis pain, the Spaniard shot a 66 to finish in a group that included Rich Beem and Graeme McDowell.

Under heavy clouds that brought brief showers midway through his round, Mickelson was easy to spot because of about 750 fans following him – one man dressed all in pink. John Daly also made a comeback but for vastly different reasons, and the result not quite the same. He played on the PGA Tour for the first time since a six-month suspension. Daly opened with eight straight pars and a birdie, but his putter failed him miserably. He followed with three straight bogeys for a 72.

"Probably the worst I've putted in five years," Daly said, wearing a neon-green shirt that matched his argyle pants of green and yellow.