Mickelson off the pace at Humana ChallengeJanuary, 2015
Phil Mickelson struggles in first appearance since Ryder Cup
Phil Mickelson shot an opening round 71 having opened at La Quinta Country Club in his first event since the Ryder Cup.
In a mixed round, Mickelson chipped in exquisitely from a greenside bunker to birdie the par-4 fourth.
44-year-old Mickelson, the 2002 and 2004 champion, is winless in 27 PGA TOUR starts since the 2013 Open Championship.
Mickelson currently sits in 89th place on the leaderboard at one-under after his opening round.
“It was the first round in four months and I’ll loosen up,” Mickelson said.
“Hopefully, the way I’m playing will show in the score. But today, it just didn’t.”
“Even though this score is the worst I’ve had in a long time, in months, I’m excited about my game and getting back out tomorrow.
“I can’t wait to get started again, because I just feel like I played a little tight, kind of steered it a little bit.”
Leader Michael Putnam made nine birdies in an 11-hole stretch yesterday to finish with a nine-under 63 round to take a one-stroke lead in the Humana Challenge.
Putnam made birdies at the 7, 9 and 10 and managed six in a row through holes 12-17 to edge ahead of the chasing pack at PGA West’s Jack Nicklaus Private Course.
Speaking directly after his round Putnam said: “The course is in perfect shape.
“Greens are good. I made a lot of birdies at the end. Hit a lot of close shots, a lot of 5-, 10-foot putts. I made them all, so I got to be happy about that.”
Mark Wilson, Blake Adams, John Peterson, Francesco Molinari and Scott Pinckney are currently tied for second.
With Wilson, Adams and Peterson playing the Nicklaus course; Molinari opened on the Arnold Palmer Private Course with Pinckney playing his opening round at La Quinta.
It was the first round in four months and I’ll loosen up Defending champion Patrick Reed shot an opening round 65 at La Quinta. Having come off a playoff victory against Jimmy Walker two weeks ago in Hawaii in the Tournament of Champions.
Last year, Reed shot three 63s to open a seven-shot lead and closed with a 71 for a two-stroke victory.
He broke the PGA TOUR record for relation to par for the first 54 holes at 27 under and became the first player to open with three rounds of 63 or better.
Reed said: “I feel like I left a lot out there, but it’s always good to shoot 7 under.
“My confidence is as high as it could be and the main thing is just not getting ahead of myself and not really being over-confident where I take too many unnecessary risks.”
Reed’s playing partner Matt Kuchar, the highest-ranked player in the field at No. 11 in the world, also scored a 65. Closing his round with a final hole bogey.
Kuchar said: “This course here, La Quinta, is fantastic.
“Fun course, challenging, tight off the tees and in great shape. The greens are just spectacular.”
Elsewhere Luke Donald shot a first round 3 over par 75 on the Nicklaus course in his first career round in the event.
Full leaderboard details can be found here.