Phil Mickelson trails leaders Hunter Mahan and Russell Knox by five shots a quarter of the way through his bid to win golf’s Pebble Beach National Pro-Am two years in a row.
Mickelson, who shot a 60 on his way to winning the Phoenix Open five days ago, finished yesterday’s opening round at 1- under-par 69 after bogeying two of his last five holes on the Monterey Peninsula Country Club’s Shore Course in California.
“One of the things I’ve learned over the years here is you need to be patient,” Mickelson told reporters. “There are plenty of birdie holes throughout the three courses.”
Mahan dropped one shot in a round of 65 at Pebble Beach Golf Links, while Knox, from Scotland, had two bogeys on the Shore Course in matching his career low score of 64. The pair are at 6 under and hold a one-shot lead over a group of six players that includes Seung-Yul Noh of South Korea, who had the best score at Spyglass Hill.
The tournament groups professionals with celebrities such as actor Bill Murray and New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick. Mickelson, a four-time winner in 17 prior visits to the event, is paired with Skip McGee, the chief executive officer of Barclays Plc’s corporate and investment banking in the Americas.
The professionals and amateurs rotate among the three courses over the first three days before the pros play the final round at Pebble Beach on the final day.
Mickelson last week led from start to finish to win the Phoenix Open for a third time. The 42-year-old missed a chance to become the sixth player in an official U.S. PGA Tour event to score 59 when his 25-foot putt on the last hole of the opening round caught the lip of the cup and spun out.
Mickelson won at the TPC Scottsdale’s Stadium Course with a four-round score of 28-under-par 256, two off the PGA Tour record for 72 holes. Mickelson’s 41st career title, his first in almost a year, catapulted him 12 places up the Official World Golf Ranking to 10th.
Mickelson is seeking to join Mark O’Meara as the only five- time winner of the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. Mickelson has won in consecutive weeks twice before -- in 2005 at the Phoenix Open and Pebble Beach, and the following year at the BellSouth Classic and the Masters Tournament.
Six golfers have won two straight editions of the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, most recently Dustin Johnson in 2009-10.
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