By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. -- Phil Mickelson has had a feast-or-famine kind of season so far in 2013.
He didn't finish higher than 37th in his first two starts before breaking through with his 41st victory at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Mickelson was so dialed in that week at TPC Scottsdale he had not one, but two chances to shoot 59 in the first round and he went on to tie the tournament record at 28 under.
Mickelson couldn't carry the momentum into his title defense last week at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, though -- making the cut on the number and eventually tying for 60th. And Thursday' first round of the Northern Trust Open brought more of the same frustration in a round of even par.
"It could have been better but it could have been a lot worse, and I'll certainly take it," Mickelson said.
Mickelson only hit three fairways on Thursday, none of which came on the back nine, which was his first of the day. He did manage 11 greens in regulation and salvaged the day with 29 putts.
"It was just a fraction off, because I hit the ball pretty solid yesterday," said Mickelson, who shot 69 in the pro-am. "I felt like I was on the right track, and when I came out this morning, it was a little bit off. I was hitting some pull hooks, I was hitting some block cuts, and so I put myself in some not great spots off the tee.
"Had to fight to make pars, and pretty fortunate I think to shoot even par. Now, I let a few shots go there that probably could have got me to 2 or 3 under, but I didn't have a round where I could have gone really low. Fighting to keep the round par."
Mickelson, who had a quartet of birdies as well as of bogeys, said he saw improvement on his second nine holes, though.
"I had a slight movement off the ball, which put me in a bad position at the top of my swing, and I wasn't able to recover," he said. "I hit a lot of bad shots early on but the last seven or eight holes, I looked liked I was hitting it pretty good.
"If I can do that tomorrow and if I can hit it like I did the last seven or eight, I should hopefully be able to run and make some birdies and play more aggressive."