Thus far in Abu Dhabi, the words and the music aren't in sync for Phil Mickelson.
After the five-time major winner extolled the virtues of his new Callaway driver during early-week interviews leading up to the HSBC Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, Mickelson struggled mightily off the tee in Thursday's opening round, carding a 1-over 73 that left him six shots off the pace.
"It was rusty. I didn't strike the ball very well; my swing feels a little rusty," Mickelson said. "I'm hoping just to work my way into this tournament. This first round I played a little cautious."
The southpaw's level of caution was largely a product of his inability to put himself in position off the tee Thursday at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. Mickelson hit just six of 14 fairways in the opening round, and found his target just once in six attempts with his new driver. He opened his round with 17 consecutive pars before closing with a bogey on the par-4 ninth hole, marking the first time the 43-year-old has failed to make a birdie during a round on the PGA or European tour since the 2012 U.S. Open at Olympic.
Following the round, Mickelson admitted that a recalibration off the tee may be in order because of the unusually penal rough lining the fairways.
"You've got to get the ball in play off the tee, there's no other way around it. I hit a lot of 3-woods today trying to get it in play," he added. "I may have to even fall back and hit hybrids just to get the ball in the fairway because you can't play from the rough."