Mickelson Builds Lead at Pebble Beach


Friday, February 11th 2005, 8:46 am
By: News On 6


PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. (AP) _ Phil Mickelson made one birdie from the ice plant, another one from the cart path. What he noticed about his course-record 62 at Spyglass Hill was that most of his birdies came with a wedge in his hand.

``Honestly, I've never driven it this far,'' Mickelson said Thursday.

Nor has he gone so low so often.

One week after his PGA Tour career-low 60 carried him to victory in Phoenix, Mickelson made 10 birdies on the toughest course in the rotation to build a three-shot lead in the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, the largest margin after one round at this tournament in 27 years.

``An awesome round of golf,'' said Charles Howell III, one of five players whose 65 on a pristine day at Pebble Beach was only good for second place.

Kevin Sutherland shot a 65 at Poppy Hills, so he didn't see Mickelson's round.

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 was.''

These days, who else could it be?

The Masters champion is making plenty of noise. It started with a 59 in the Grand Slam of Golf in Hawaii last November, then came the 60 at the FBR Open last week.

This might have been the most impressive of all.

Even though it was a prefect day on the Monterey Peninsula, with barely a trace of wind and beautiful blue skies, Spyglass Hill is one considered one of the most difficult courses in northern California. As long as Mickelson is hitting the ball, he turned it into a pitch-and-putt.

``I was able to hit wedge into (No.) 8,'' he said. ``I've never hit wedge into 8. I hit a drive on 11 that gave me a 4-iron in there, which I've never done.''

His 62 broke by two shots the previous record at Spyglass, last set by David Berganio in 2001.

Better yet, it gave him a three-shot lead over Howell, Sutherland, Davis Love III, Daniel Chopra and Hunter Mahan. It was the largest first-round lead in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am since Tom Watson led by three after the opening round in 1978.

A flawless round? Hardly.

Mickelson chipped in from 40 feet on No. 2. The breeze fooled him enough on No. 4 that he failed to carry a patch of ice plant, although that didn't matter. He chopped out with a wedge to 15 feet and made the putt.

Trying to avoid trouble on the left side of the 529-yard seventh hole, his tee shot hugged the right side and landed on a cart path. Mickelson preferred that lie over dropping in the rough, and hit 6-iron to the edge of the green for a routine up-and-down for birdie.

``A 62 is good at Bermuda Dunes,'' Sutherland said. ``A 62 at Spyglass is a whole different story.''

The story Thursday was the weather, which again was good news for this tournament.

``Without wind, the defense is not there,'' Mickelson said. ``It was not anywhere as difficult as it usually is.''

Pebble was a picnic, too.

Howell made it around with no bogeys in his 65, picking up birdies on all but one of the par 5s, rarely having to make a putt outside of about 10 feet. He finished his round with an 80-foot bunker shot that grazed the cup for a tap-in birdie.

``Even in a practice round, I've never seen the weather this good around here,'' Howell said.

Chopra and Mahan also shot 65 at Pebble, while Sutherland had his 65 at Poppy Hills despite a sloppy three-putt bogey. Love joined the pack late with an eagle on his final hole.

Mike Weir had a 6-under 66 at Poppy Hills, while British Open champion Todd Hamilton was among those at 67.

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.

The worst round belonged to David Duval, who made a birdie on the second hole to get under par for the first time this year in three tournaments. It didn't last long. He hit out of the bunker and into the ocean on the par-3 seventh, then hit his tee shot into the Pacific on No. 10 and wound up with an 85.

Next up for Duval is Spyglass, a course on which he usually struggles.

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.