Phil Mickelson got his title defense off to a flying start by firing an eight-under 63 for the clubhouse lead in the opening round of the US$6.3 million PGA Northern Trust Open on Thursday.
Mickelson shot a bogey-free round and says he is finally rounding into form after a slow start to the season.
“It was a good start and I feel like I am back on the right track,” Mickelson said. “I felt better with the putter and my short game was as good as it has been.”
Mickelson’s US compatriot Scott McCarron was second after shooting a seven-under 64. England’s Luke Donald, South Korean KJ Choi and Andres Romero of Argentina were in a pack of seven golfers tied for third at 66.
Play was called off on Thursday because of darkness with four players still on course. They were due to finish their first rounds early yesterday.
Mickelson may be hitting his stride just in time as he is seeking to become just the seventh player to win back-to-back titles since this event was first held in 1926.
“It certainly helps having won here last year and played well the year before,” he said. “I have a lot of confidence coming into this golf course.”
This week’s tournament at the Riviera Country Club is the first of two title defenses Mickelson will make this season. Later this season, Mickelson will attempt to win the Crowne Plaza Invitational for the second consecutive year.
Mickelson has made a slow start to the season. His best finish so far is a tie for 42nd at the Buick Invitational. He missed the cut at the FBR Open and tied for 55th at last week’s Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
“I am driving much better and longer,” Mickelson said of his round Thursday.
“I was trying a little bit different shafts with some of my irons and wasn’t quite matching up the way I would like to. So I went back to my set from last year and tried to eliminate the variables,” he said.