Phil Still On Fire
By Stephanie Wei under PGA Tour

Talk to the back, suckers!

Just before darkness set in at Riviera Country Club, Phil Mickelson capped off a(nother) spectacular round with a chip-in for birdie on 18 to take the outright lead in the first round of the Northern Trust Open. (Could hear the roar from the media center during J.B. Holmes’ presser — it sounded like a “Phil roar.”)

Mickelson, who shot a memorable eight-under 64 on Sunday to win the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, fired a five-under 66. With the morning wave getting the worst of the gusty conditions, the players who teed off later in the day had the benefit of nearly no wind toward the end of their rounds.


Due to the high winds, the afternoon starting times were delayed by about a half hour. First-round play was stopped due to darkness and 5:42pm PT and 30 players will return at 7am to finish up.

Obviously, Phil took advantage of the calm(er) conditions on the back nine, but it was still a grueling test.

“It was a challenging day today because Riviera doesn’t give you great opportunities to run balls onto the green,” said Mickelson.  “That kikuyu grabs it so you really have to fly it on.  Fortunately the greens were somewhat receptive, and that’s why I think the scores weren’t extremely high.  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 because they were receptive.  So I thought that even though the wind was challenging, it was still a fair test.”

Phil bogeyed the par-3 16th, so that made the chip-in on 18 all the more satifsying.

“It feels really good to get that one extra shot because I felt like I left one or two out on 16, 17, and you hate to have such a good round and let a few slide late,” he said.  “To make that shot unexpectedly on 18 felt like I got one of those back.”

He last captured consecutive titles in consecutive weeks in 2006 at the BellSouth Classic and the Masters. He also achieved that feat in 2005 at the Waste Management Phoenix Open and AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and then in 1996 at the Nortel Open and Waste Management Phoenix Open. Phil, who won here in 2008 and 2009, is looking to join Ben Hogan and Arnold Palmer as three-time winners of this event.

J.B. Holmes and Hunter Mahan both shot four-under 67 to trail Phil by one. Jonathan Byrd was the low round in the morning with a three-under 68.

(AP Photo/Chris Carlson)