PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- Phil Mickelson keeps hitting it long
and going low.
Fresh off a career-low 60 last week in Phoenix that led to his
first victory of the year, Mickelson broke the course record at
Spyglass Hill -- the toughest course in the rotation -- with a
10-under 62 that gave him a three-shot lead Thursday in the Pebble
Beach National Pro-Am.
"Honestly, I've never driven it this far," Mickelson said.
He took advantage of pristine conditions on the Monterey
Peninsula, with brilliant blue skies and only a trace of wind that
made Pebble Beach, Spyglass and Poppy Hills so tame that more than
half the 180-man field broke par.
And as always, Mickelson was a thrill a minute.
One birdie came out of a bed of ice plant on the fourth hole.
Another came on the 527-yard seventh hole, when Mickelson hit a
6-iron off the cart path to the edge of the green and easily got up
and down. He hit driver on the 325-yard 17th hole that left him 8
yards from the front of the green, leading to a tap-in birdie.
It was the largest first-round lead at this tournament since Tom
Watson led by three in 1978. Mickelson's 62 was two shots better
than the previous course record at Spyglass, last set by David
Berganio four years ago.
"A 62 is good at Bermuda Dunes," Sutherland said. "A 62 at
Spyglass is a whole different story. That's an amazing round."
Sutherland didn't see it; he shot his 65 at Poppy Hills.
But he heard it.
"We were on the 18th tee, and it's amazing to say this, but we
heard a roar," Sutherland said. "That's got to be a couple miles
away. We heard it pretty easily, and I thought it can only be one
person. I'm not sure it was him, but a 62 at Spyglass? I'm sure it
The only question was which shot produced the big cheer. It
might have been the 40-foot chip-in from across the second green,
or the 4-wood on the 560-yard 14th hole to within 25 feet for an
It's all starting to run together for Mickelson, the Masters
champion who already is making a lot of noise. It started with his
59 in the Grand Slam of Golf in Hawaii last November, then the 60
last week in the FBR Open.
He is using a Callaway prototype golf ball called "Hex Tour
56," and maybe that number is around the corner.
"The biggest thing for me is I've been driving the ball a lot
longer than I did last year," Mickelson said. "And all that wedge
work that I did last year and continued this year ... I'm starting
to have a lot more wedges in. I'm taking advantage of it. I'm able
to make a lot more birdies now."
There was no shortage of those Thursday in some of the best
conditions at Pebble in recent memory.
"Even in a practice round, I've never seen the weather this
good around here," Howell said.
He also took advantage with a bogey-free round at Pebble Beach,
highlighted by an 80-foot bunker shot that grazed the edge of the
cup on the 18th for a tap-in birdie.
Good thing it didn't hit the cup on the fly, or it might have
gone in the ocean. Howell is still haunted by his sand wedge into
the 18th green at Torrey Pines last month that bounced out of the
cup and into the pond, costing him a chance to win.
This was a tidy round on a tame course, with birdies on all but
one of the par 5s and a steady diet of fairways and greens. Mahan
and Chopra also played Pebble, while Sutherland and Love had the
best score at Poppy Hills.
Love, who has won Pebble twice in the last four years, made the
turn in 31 and was even par the rest of the way until closing with
an eagle for his 65.
Mike Weir had a 6-under 66 at Poppy Hills, while British Open
champion Todd Hamilton was among those at 65.
Defending champion Vijay Singh played five groups behind
Mickelson at Spyglass, and wound up 11 shots behind after opening
with a 73, only his second time over par in his last 21 rounds at
the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
Mickelson now heads to Poppy Hills, which features five par 5s
and is the easiest course in the rotation.
"It's important that I keep pushing," Mickelson said. "I'm
fortunate to get off to a good start, but my mind-set is I still
have to go out and shoot low rounds."
That has become routine for him lately.
David Duval birdied the second hole to get to 1 under, the
first time this year he has been under par in a tournament. It
didn't last long. He blasted out of the bunker and into the ocean
on the 106-yard seventh hole, hit his tee shot on No. 10 into the
ocean and wound up with an 85. ... NBC Sports analyst Roger Maltbie
shot a 70, his lowest score at Pebble in 10 years. "Never confuse
luck for brains, pal," the 53-year-old Maltbie said. ... Jose
Maria Olazabal hit the weights during the offseason to help pick up
distance. Olazabal, who opened with a 70, failed to keep his card
last year and has to rely on sponsor's exemptions. He will play the
next three weeks. "I still get in the Masters," the two-time
champion said with a smile. When asked if he was interested in
being Europe's next Ryder Cup captain, the 39-year-old smiled and
shook his head. "Too young," he said.