SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- It has been nearly two full years since Bubba Watson’s last win on the PGA TOUR.
Thursday, he took a good first step toward ending that drought, shooting a 7-under 64 to share the lead with Y.E. Yang at the Waste Management Phoenix Open.
Winning a major can often be life-altering. For Watson, it was a bit of something else: An adjustment.
“If you look at my career, from junior golf, to college golf, to mini tours to now the Web.com Tour, to the PGA TOUR, I got to a level and I got out of my comfort zone,” he said. “I get comfortable, and then I step up a new level and I get nervous again.”
Add a new baby and moving into a new house to the mix, and Watson’s off-the-course distractions suddenly seeped into his game on it.
“Hopefully I'm at a steppingstone where I've learned,” Watson said. “Now if I win a few more, I get nervous again. Right now I'm in a good spot.”
PEREZ STAYS HOT IN PHOENIX: Pat Perez rattled off seven birdies in a nine-hole stretch, including five in a row in the middle of his round Thursday. He finished with a 65 and is one shot off the lead.
It’s the second straight week Perez has found himself in contention.
He had a chance to win Sunday at Torrey Pines until a couple of bogeys on the back nine, including one on the par-3 16th. He shot 74 and tumbled into a tie for 21st.
Almost as noteworthy was how he got to the course. Perez’s car for the week is a Toyota Scion iQ.
“It's like driving a UFO,” Perez said. “You see this thing go by, they don't know what it is.
“The tail folds down, and there is a rack that was built that goes on either side. The rack comes out, and you can put two sets of clubs on the back and drive it on the fairways because it's lighter than a mower.”
PHIL’S BACK FINE, GAME RUSTY: Phil Mickelson declared his back was fine on Thursday.
His game was another story.
A year after opening with a 60, the defending champion stumbled to an even-par 71 Thursday.
"My game was a little rusty," he said. "I wasn't quite focused on every shot the way I need to be, and let way too many shots slide today."
There was some question as to whether Mickelson would be able to play at all after suffering from a sore back that forced him to withdraw halfway through last week's event at Torrey Pines.
But Mickelson flew to Georgia earlier this week to see a back specialist and was back in Arizona by Wednesday for a 90-minute practice session at nearby Whisper Rock.
"It's fine," Mickelson said of his back. "It was a five-minute fix. I just have to be careful for a week or two as it heals up. Mobility is back. I just didn't play well."
NO. 16, THE MOST DIFFICULT: The par-3 16th at TPC Scottsdale was the most difficult hole on the golf course Thursday, but it had nothing to do with the noise.
The back hole location made it difficult for players to get the ball close on the 178-yard hole.
Only 7 birdies were made there -- compared to 34 bogeys.
“If you try to play the fat of the green, you still have a 30-, 35-footer with a tough pin placement,” said Watson, who hit it to 7 feet and made birdie. “It makes it tough.”
For more on No. 16 from Thursday, click here.
Birdieing 16 is tight— John Peterson (@JohnPetersonLSU) January 30, 2014