Through two rounds he is still knocking off the rust, but the tournament ambassador is also in contention thanks to opening rounds of 68-66.
"It's been a fun two days," said Mickelson, who is four strokes behind leader Hudson Swafford. "There is no better way to judge where your game is at than to come out and play. The great thing about these courses and starting here in Palm Springs ... is that the courses give you a chance to get away with a few shots."
On Friday, he started on the back nine at the Nicklaus Tournament Course and promptly eagled the par-5 11th, birdied No. 14, but then gave shots back on Nos. 16 and 17. Lefty rebounded with two straight birdies, and added three more on Nos. 4, 5 and 6 for a 6-under 66.
He now heads to the tougher PGA West Stadium Course for the third and final rounds. Mickelson said his ball-striking was better on Friday, but his short game has bailed him out. It is the one area of his game that he's been able to work on since recovering from his surgeries.
"It's not anywhere near as rusty as other parts of my game," Mickelson said.