Mickelsons 8-Under Leads


Phil Mickelson birdied three holes Friday morning to break out of a three-way logjam and grab the lead at The Players Championship.
Mickelson, playing seven holes to finish up a first round delayed 2 1/2-hours by rain Thursday, birdied the third, seventh and ninth on the front. Left behind were the other Thursday leaders, Scott Hoch and Chris DiMarco.
DiMarco also eagled the par-5 11th en route to his 6-under 66. Mickelson carded five birdies without a bogey in his 11 holes.
Hoch eagled the par-5 11th, his second hole of the day, after opening with a bogey on No. 10. He proceeded to birdie the two other par-5s and throw in birdies at the par-3 17th and the par-4 12th. He finished at 5-under.
Obviously I didnt start out very well, Hoch said of his slip at the start. I hit into a fairway bunker and hit a good shot out, but I three-putted from 35-40 feet.
The next hole, though, I hit a 3-wood to about 20 feet and made the putt for eagle. So thats a quick bounce-back, as the PGA Tour says in its stats.
Two players were tied at 4-under, 1999 Players Champion David Duval and 44-year-old Nick Faldo.
I really hit the ball well, said Hoch, who has finished 13th or better since the Tour started growing the rough at this tournament in 1997. I felt like Tiger on the par-5s. I hit the 3-wood on 11, I hit 6-iron into the green on 16 and I hit a 5-wood on No. 2.
A six-way tie developed for those who finished. Robert Allenby, Jeff Sluman, Mark Calcavecchia, David Toms, Steve Lowery and Stuart Appleby deadlocked with 3-under 69s. Sluman said all the leaders were pleased with their scores, despite the fact that no one had a sparkling round with a 65 or 66.
Anytime you play the TPC and your score starts with a 6, youve got to be happy, he said. This golf course tests your patience, tests your nerves. Its a complete test of golf out there, especially with the wind and that.
Long hitters and short hitters shared the spotlight. It didnt how matter far you hit it with the damp fairways, only that you hit it straight.
The fairways didnt affect us, said Sluman. They actually held up reasonably well. There was no mud on the ball when we restarted ... I was kind of surprised because I thought wed have a lot of, kind of mud balls in the afternoon, as hard as it rained.
Appleby had the most up-and-down day. He had seven birdies. But two bogeys on the front, coupled with a double-bogey 5 after a water ball on 17, contributed to his 3-under score.
Tiger Woods never really got untracked and stands in 1-under-par 71. His only birdies came on two of the par-5s, No. 2 and No. 16, but he suffered a bogey on the par-5 fifth ' he started on the back nine.