SCOTTSDALE, Arizona (AP) — Phil Mickelson played the final 11 holes in 5 under to salvage a 2-under 69 on Thursday in the first round of the Phoenix Open.
The three-time champion bogeyed his first hole – the par-4 10th – after driving left into a hospitality tent. He had a double bogey on the par-5 15th, driving left into the water and hitting his approach in the water in front of the green.
”I came out and I just made a bunch of dumb mistakes and I’m 3 over,” Mickelson said. ”I made a birdie on 17 and followed with one on 18, and that really turned the round back around. I ended up playing the front nine really solid with 3 under and hit a lot of good shots on some holes I made pars, as well, and feel much better.”
Making his 26th appearance in the event, Lefty rebounded with the birdies on Nos. 17 and 18 – hitting to 5 feet on the par-4 18th – and added birdies on Nos. 3, 8 and 9.
”I’m in a position now if I get hot tomorrow I can get right back in it,” Mickelson said. ”If I end up shooting 1 over, 2 over, I end up having to get a hot round just to get in the middle of the pack, so this was a big round to get it to under par.”
The 44-year-old Mickelson was five strokes behind clubhouse leader Ryan Palmer when play was suspended because of darkness. He tied for 24th last week in La Quinta in his first start since the Ryder Cup in September and is winless since the 2013 British Open.
Mickelson won at TPC Scottsdale in 1996, 2005 and 2013. In 2013, He shot 60-65-64-67 to match the tournament record of 28-under 256.
COURSE REVIEW: Count Martin Laird among the players pleased with the changes Tom Weiskopf made last year to TPC Scottsdale’s Stadium Course.
”I think they’re fantastic,” Laird said. ”I think the course needed it, just a little tweak. Obviously, two or three holes that have changed quite a bit, but a lot of it is little tweaks. Visually it’s fantastic. Every hole looks great. Change in the bunkers really made a difference. I mean, I like every single thing they did. That’s not often you hear that when guys make changes, and that said, I think it needed it. I think it came out fantastic.”
The Scottsdale-based Scot opened with a 66. He eagled the par-5 third hole, hitting a 266-yard shot 4 feet from the back left pin.
”It was kind of a perfect number for a cup 5-wood,” Laird said. ”That’s a new green. You’ve got to use the big ridge that runs across the middle. It came out just perfect. Used the slope.”
RECORD CROWD: Tournament officials estimated the crowd at 118,461, shattering the Thursday mark of 88,113 set last year. The event counts cars in figuring its estimates.
The par-3 16th hole will generate about $12 million in ticket revenue this week. There are 228 skyboxes on the stadium hole at close to $50,000 each and 3,500 general-admission seats.
DIVOTS: Canadian Graham DeLaet lives in Scottsdale. ”It’s nice to be home and doesn’t really feel like a tournament week until you get out here,” DeLaet said after a 67. ”Sleeping in your own bed is always great.” … Daniel Berger hit a 358-yard on the 341-yard 17th, leaving a chip back to the green that he hit 3 feet to set up a birdie. He was 6 under with two holes left when play was suspended because of darkness.