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February 2 2012

11:39 PM

Clothes, clubs make statements

By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The pants were emerald green while the shoes were more of a lime hue. Rickie Fowler's shirt featured stripes from both ends of that spectrum with a little blue and purple thrown in for good measure.

His playing partners in Thursday's Featured Group at TPC Scottsdale, not surprisingly, were a little more understated. Dustin Johnson's shirt was basic white while Phil Mickelson wore a black one  with a maroon vest.

And the way Fowler talked, he’s got more interesting combinations to come.

"Obviously it's been a great partnership with Waste Management partnering up with the Thunderbirds," Fowler said. "The Thunderbirds have been great to me, and this is my way of showing support. I know that 'Green Out' is on Saturday, so the questions have been why am I wearing it today. Puma has got me with plenty of green, so no worries."

While Fowler may have made the fashion statement, Mickelson and Johnson let their clubs do the talking -- posting rounds of 68 that left him three strokes off the lead after the first round of the Waster Management Phoenix Open. But Fowler was only one stroke behind the two.

"Great pairing, two guys that I love playing with," Fowler said. "Dustin lives close to me and I've spent some time with some Phil in some practice rounds and obviously Ryder Cup together, but a lot of fun. Feeding off each other out there, and hopefully we can get things going well."

"It's fun out here," Johnson said, agreeing with his neighbor. "We had a big crowd following us today, me, Phil and Rickie. It was a good day. The fans were great. I played pretty well today, got off to a good start, just hit some really good shots, hit some poor shots. But today it was out there to shoot a good score."

Mickelson, in particular, remains a favorite in Phoenix two decades after graduating from Arizona State. He's a two-time champion of the tournament, as well.

"It's really cool coming back here," Mickelson said. "Obviously playing with Rickie Fowler and Dustin Johnson who have a huge following, and then to come back to the community here where I spent so many years, met my wife, had our first couple children, it's a cool place. We all played okay, and it was a fun day.
   
"I love playing this golf course. I think this course has great risk-reward. It entices you to go for it, but it also penalizes you if you don't pull off a shot. I think it's a wonderful course and an exciting course to watch on."

Mickelson’s first-round result was considerably better than his last two tournaments where he opened with rounds of 74 and 77. He still wasn't totally pleased by the way he hit the ball after finding just half his fairways and greens. But the 24 putts was cause for optimism.

"I feel good, especially on the greens," Mickelson said. "I feel really good with the putter, and I haven't had this feeling for some time, but I could tell in the off season it was really coming. My ball-striking wasn't as sharp as I wanted, but I hit a lot of good shots. I'm going to go up to my club up north here and get a little work done ball striking this afternoon and see if I can get it dialed in for tomorrow. 
   
“This course if you're precise and hit great golf shots, you'll be rewarded, but because the greens aren't holding, if you don't hit it perfect, it will release to a distance that's tough to make birdies, and I think that makes for a really good test."

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