Mickelson back to top of leaderboard

Mickelson back to top of leaderboard

LOS ANGELES - The Associated Press
Mickelson back to top of leaderboard

Only four days after claiming the Pebble Beach title, veteran US golfer Phil Mickelson continues his good form with a leading position at the Northern Trust Open. AP photo

Four days after a big win at Pebble Beach, Phil Mickelson kept right on rolling with a 5-under 66 on Feb. 16 to take a one-shot lead in the first round of the Northern Trust Open.

Mickelson chipped in from 35 feet on the 18th hole at Riviera to take a lead over J.B. Holmes who, in his fourth tournament since returning from brain surgery, mixed birdies and bogeys along his back nine.
Holmes was level with Hunter Mahan, who birdied four straight toward the end of his round.

All three played in the afternoon as the wind died slightly. Jonathan Byrd had the best score of the morning, when it was chilly and blustery. He had a 68.

The first round was suspended by darkness with 30 players yet to finish the round.

He holed a 30-foot birdie putt on the long par-3 fourth hole, and then really got going on the back nine.

After a tough pitch to 12 feet that led to birdie on the 10th, Mickelson had 297 yards to the hole on the 11th and decided to hit driver, a shot he had not tried in months.

It came off perfectly and climbed onto the front edge of the green, making Mickelson the only player to have an eagle putt on the 587-yard hole, which played right into the wind. The pin was all the way back, away from a large hump in the putting surface, which gave Mickelson the green light.

Holmes was the first player to reach 5 under, and that’s where his fun began - consecutive bogeys when he failed to get up-and-down from just short of the green; a tap-in birdie at the par-3 sixth, with the pin below the bunker in the middle of the green.

He has struggled with a slight loss of power since brain surgery in September.

“I feel like each week my swing has definitely gotten a little bit better and improved a little bit,” Holmes said. “My swing speed has slowly come back a little bit being out here and playing this much.”