SCOTTSDALE, ARIZONA – Rickie Fowler overcame some bad shots for a share of the lead Thursday in the Phoenix Open. Phil Mickelson compounded his mistakes and fell back.
After an hour-long frost delay at chilly TPC Scottsdale, Fowler played the first six holes in 5 under. A group behind, Mickelson took the lead at 5 under with a birdie on his eighth hole.
While Fowler finished with a 6-under 65 to tie Shane Lowry and Hideki Matsuyama for the lead in the suspended first round, Mickelson had a 69 after dropping four strokes in a two-hole stretch.
“I made some good putts to start,” Fowler said. “Just kind of got everything going. Made a couple of bad swings. Cost me a little bit, but other than that, nice way to get off to a good start.”
Mickelson bogeyed the par-3 fourth after hitting short and right and failing to reach the green with his second, and unraveled with a triple bogey on the par-4 fifth. He drove out of bounds to the right, hit his second tee shot into the right bunker and three-putted from 50 feet.
“I hit a bad shot at the wrong time,” Mickelson said. “It’s the tightest hole out there. You miss the fairway 5 yards left, you’re in the wash, in the hazard. You miss it right of the bunker, you’re out of bounds. . . . I’m not going to dwell on the one bad one because there were really a lot of good ones.”
The best one was on the par-5 13th — his fourth hole of the day — when he hit a 252-yard hybrid approach to 2½ feet to set up an eagle.
Winless in 48 events since the 2013 British Open, the 45-year-old former Arizona State player is working with swing coach Andrew Getson after splitting with Butch Harmon. Lefty tied for third two weeks ago at La Quinta in his season debut and missed the cut last week at Torrey Pines.
“When you don’t score as low as you feel like you’re playing, it can be frustrating, but for me, I find it to be more encouraging that I’m making a lot of birdies,” said Mickelson, the tournament winner in 1996, 2005 and 2013.
Fowler also missed the cut at Torrey Pines after winning the European Tour event in Abu Dhabi the previous week. He has four worldwide victories in the last nine months.
“I know I have been swinging well and playing well,” Fowler said. “I just didn’t make anything last week.”
Fowler opened with a birdie on the par-4 10th, holing a 16-foot putt. He made a 35-footer on the 12th, two-putted for birdie on the 13th and made a 28-foot eagle putt on the par-5 15th after hitting a 258-yard shot over the water.
“I had a good number in there,” Fowler said. “Actually, put a 5-wood in play last week, a new one.”
The top-ranked player in the field at No. 4, Fowler bogeyed the par-3 16th after drawing an awkward lie in the right bunker. He birdied the short par-4 17th, and bogeyed the par-4 18th after driving left into the water.