Mickelson grabs Riviera lead

2012-02-17 06:47

Los Angeles - Phil Mickelson chipped in for birdie at the final hole on Thursday to seize a one-shot lead in the first round of the US PGA Tour's $6.6 million Northern Trust Open.

Mickelson, who surged to victory with a sparkling 64 last Sunday at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, broke out of a tie at the top of the leaderboard, his five-under 66 on the par-71 Riviera Country Club course giving him a one-shot lead over JB Holmes and Hunter Mahan.

Holmes, on the comeback trail after brain surgery brought his 2011 season to a premature halt in September, opened fast with four birdies in his first five holes despite difficult gusting winds.

Mahan, who like Holmes started on the 10th tee, surged up the leaderboard with four birdies in a row from the fifth hole before he closed his four-under 67 with a par at the ninth.

All three were among the players whose afternoon tee times were pushed back almost half an hour as winds gusting up to 35 miles per hour slowed play in the morning.

Jonathan Byrd's three-under par 68 was the best round of the chilly, blustery morning and left him tied for fourth with Sweden's Carl Pettersson - who completed his round just as darkness halted play.

The round was to resume on Friday morning, with the second round to follow on schedule.

"It was a challenging day today because Riviera doesn't give you great opportunities to run balls onto the green," said Mickelson, who opened his round with a birdie at the par-five first and went on to add birdies at the fourth, 10th and 11th before his lone bogey of the day at 16.

"Fortunately the greens were somewhat receptive, and that's why I think the scores weren't extremely high," Mickelson said. "A lot of them were right around par. You could keep the ball underneath the wind, underneath the tree line and still get it to stop somewhat on the greens.

"So I thought that even though the wind was challenging, it was still a fair test."

South Korea's KJ Choi completed his two-under par round early and was among half a dozen players in the clubhouse on 69 that included Spain's Sergio Garcia and Stewart Cink.

World number one Luke Donald, who in 2011 became the first player to win both the European and US tour money titles in one season, opened his US PGA Tour campaign with a solid one-under 70.

He was among 10 players in the clubhouse on one-under that also included fellow Englishman Justin Rose and Australian Marc Leishman.

Leading first-round scores here on Thursday in the US PGA Tour's $6.6 million Northern Trust Open (play suspended by darkness, round to resume Friday. USA unless noted, par-71):

66 - Phil Mickelson

67 - J.B. Holmes, Hunter Mahan

68 - Jonathan Byrd, Carl Pettersson (SWE)

69 - K.J. Choi (KOR), Brendan Steele, Brandt Jobe, Sergio Garcia (ESP), Matt Kuchar, Stewart Cink

70 - Luke Donald (ENG), Justin Rose (ENG), Bubba Watson, David Hearn (CAN) Tom Pernice, Marc Leishman (AUS), Cameron Tringale, Tommy Gainey, Fred Couples Cameron Beckman

71 - Kevin Stadler, Mathew Goggin (AUS), Ricky Barnes, Dustin Johnson, Harrison Frazar, John Mallinger, Briny Baird, Keegan Bradley, Zach Johnson