Mickelson had the first of two sports hernia surgeries shortly after a T-8 finish at the Safeway Classic in October, and he hasn't played since. While he will serve as a tournament ambassador this week in Palm Springs, Mickelson's spokesman said last week that the southpaw is "hopeful" to make his 2017 debut this week.
Should he be up to the task, Mickelson will play the first two rounds alongside another two-time tournament champ in Bill Haas. Haas, who won here in 2010 and again in 2015, finished T-13 last week at the Sony Open.
The pair are slated to play La Quinta Country Club at 11:40 a.m. Thursday, followed by 1:20 p.m. Friday on the Nicklaus Tournament Course at PGA West and 12:50 p.m. Saturday on the Stadium Course.
Here are a couple other early-round pairings to keep an eye on during this pro-am event (all times ET):
Dufner returns to defend the title that he won last year in a hard-fought playoff over David Lingmerth. It remains the most recent victory for Dufner, who missed the cut last week in Hawaii and will play alongside one of the top-ranked players in the field in Casey. The Englishman had a strong 2016 that ended with a serious run at the FedEx Cup, but he has missed the cut in each of his last two appearances here.
Reed shot three straight rounds of 63 en route to a convincing victory here in 2015, although he hasn't cracked the top 20 in two trips since. He'll play the first 54 holes alongside Johnson, whose T-6 finish at the Sony Open was his first top-10 since the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in July.
1 p.m. Thursday (LQCC), 12:30 p.m. Friday (Nicklaus), 12 p.m. Saturday (Stadium): Jamie Lovemark, Jon Rahm
This duo pairs two of the more talented players still in search of a PGA Tour win, as Lovemark played in the final group at this event last year before fading to T-6. Rahm has had far fewer chances at victory, but he notched a trio of top-5 finishes last season while earning his card after a standout amateur career at Arizona State.