Phil being Phil: Mickelson begins 31st PGA Tour season with an up-and-down round that was anything but boring

© Provided by Golfweek Fortinet Championship

The record shows that Phil Mickelson began his 31st season on the PGA Tour in Thursday’s first round of the Fortinet Championship.

His work over the 18 holes at Silverado Resort & Spa in Napa, California, however, was the same old, same old we’ve seen out of Mickelson the previous 30 years – an up-and-down journey en route to putting his signature to the scorecard.

In other words, a few thrills, a few spills. Phil being Phil. But oh, so entertaining.

In the end, he finished with a 2-under 70 that could have been a 66. With four birdies and two bogeys, he stood five shots behind clubhouse leader Chez Reavie.

Starting on the 10th hole, Mickelson, 51, hit all nine greens in regulation over his first nine and made three birdies. Coming home, however, he three-putted the second hole for bogey, then came right back by making a 20-footer for par on the third. His driver, however, started to let him down – he thought he hit two drives out of bounds, but both were safe.

“I stopped hitting fairways,” Mickelson said. “I hit a lot of fairways on the front and a lot of first cuts and had chances to be aggressive and played pretty well. I had a couple chances on the last couple holes to get it back to 3, 4, 5 under and finished at 2 unfortunately, but I thought it actually went all right.

“I’m making a few changes and my miss (with the driver) has gone from left to right and it’s a little bit different to adjust to. I thought that it went pretty well today with that in mind.”

Mickelson said this week won’t provide any indication as to how he will play during the 2021-22 season. But always the tinkerer throughout his World Golf Hall of Fame career (he was inducted nine years ago), whether with equipment, his body or swing, Mickelson is always working on something.

The most noticeable alteration in the first round was the putting method he was using – he locked the oversized grip of his putter against his right arm. Mickelson used this method earlier this year, starting in Memphis at the World Golf Championships-Fed Ex St. Jude Invitational.

He made some good par saves but missed a couple short birdie putts, made a couple long putts, and canned 84 feet of putts in all.

“I thought I putted really well,” said Mickelson, a winner of 45 PGA Tour titles, including six major championships. “The ones that I made, a lot of key four‑, five‑, six‑footers, and then the ones that were 20 feet, I had three or four that I thought I made and didn’t quite go in. So that’s good that the ball’s hunting the cup and tracking. Hopefully they’ll go in tomorrow.

“I’ve been messing with it for about six weeks. It takes a little getting used to, but it seems like I’ve had moments where I just start rolling it in from everywhere.”

Mickelson said that the Fortinet Championship could be his only PGA Tour start in the new season until 2022, though he will make an appearance on the PGA Tour Champions to play in the Furyk & Friends in Jacksonville, Florida, in October.

Next week in Whistling Straits at the 43rd playing of the Ryder Cup, Mickelson will be one of USA captain Steve Stricker’s five assistants; it will be the first Ryder Cup Mickelson won’t be playing in since making his debut in 1995.

Other than that, it seems Mickelson will have plenty of time to rest, relax and work on his game until he ramps up play in 2022. He’s certainly hoping to improve on his results from the last season.

Yes, he became the oldest player to win a major when he held off Brooks Koepka and Louis Oosthuizen to win the PGA Championship, which gave him the PGA Tour record for the longest time between his first victory – the 1991 Northern Telecom Open as an amateur – and his most recent – the 2021 PGA.

But his Wanamaker Trophy haul was his only top 10 in 23 starts. His only other top 20 was a tie for 17th in the 65-man field in Memphis. He missed nine cuts.

“During this offseason I really tried to take the time to dissect what I needed to work on,” Mickelson said. “Andrew (Getson, his coach) and I know where I need to go. I don’t want to wait, I just want to get started, so we’ve been getting started.

“Actually hit a lot of really good shots, and I think when I start to speed it up, I can’t really go fast because everything’s out of sync a little bit, but I’m hitting a lot of good shots at kind of a cruise speed.”


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