By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- A week ago, Phil Mickelson flirted with a 59 in the first round on the way to a record-setting victory at the Waste Management Phoenix Open.
On Thursday at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, he battled to break 70 but still found himself in red numbers at the end of the first round. Mickelson's round of 69 came on the Shore Course at Monterey Peninsula, which plays to a par of 70.
Tee to green, Mickelson was solid -- hitting 10 of 13 fairways and all but five greens in regulation. The defending champ couldn't get his putter untracked, though, using a total of 30 in shooting 1 under.
"I played comparable to how I played last week but the differences on the greens, it's a lot more challenging to make a lot of putts up here than it is in Phoenix," Mickelson said.
Mickelson actually played his first 10 holes in 3 under, which would have put him three strokes off the overnight lead. But he couldn't coax it home, closing with two bogeys for the 69.
"I played okay today, and I was 3 under for a while, so it's disappointing to give a couple shots back coming down the stretch," Mickelson said. "I'll have to go out tomorrow at Spy and see if I can get a hot hand."
Mickelson is looking to execute back-to-back wins for the third time in his PGA TOUR career. He also seeks to join Mark O'Meara as the only five-time winners at Pebble Beach.
An earlier tee time on Friday will be a positive, and you can expect Mickelson to be aggressive on the par 5s.
"One of the things I've learned over the years here is you need to be patient," Mickelson said. "There's plenty of birdie holes throughout the three courses throughout the first three days. Hopefully I'll get a good run tomorrow and try to shoot myself up into contention. ...
"If I play just a good, solid 18 holes, I should be hopefully be able to shoot something in the mid-60s."
Mickelson also confirmed he will not be playing in the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship in two weeks. Next week's Northern Trust Open will be Mickelson's fifth straight start, and it happens to coincide with a school holiday for his kids.
"I am by no means making a statement about the tournament," Mickelson said. "I love the tournament. It's one of my favorite of the year. I love being in Tucson. It's where I won my first PGA TOUR event but my kids are out of school that week and we are taking a family trip."