Mickelson is one shot off the lead in the five-day event. Jay Haas and Brandel Chamblee, both of who played Tamarisk Country Club, shot 9-under 63s.
Haas, a nine-time tour winner, is seeking his first victory since 1993. Chamblee's lone tour triumph came in the 1998 Greater Vancouver Open.
I putted as well as Ive ever putted before, said Haas, 48, who won this event in 1988.
Mickelson, who also played Tamarisk, made nine birdies and one bogey. The left-hander recorded only one par over his first nine holes, making the turn in 6-under 30. He slowed down dramatically on the back nine - thanks to a balky putter - parring his first seven holes before finishing birdie-birdie.
Im excited to be back out here playing, Mickelson said. I didnt feel rusty. Ive been practicing and playing, using the time to improve my game away from the competitive atmosphere.
Seven players are tied at minus 8. Last weeks winner Jerry Kelly, Heath Slocum, Glen Hnatiuk, Kirk Triplett, Duffy Waldorf and John Senden matched Mickelsons 64.
Seven more players, including Mark OMeara and Charles Howell III are two off the pace.
Mickelsons last start on tour was the WGC-NEC Invitational in August. He skipped several events at the end of the 2001 season, including a title defense at the Tour Championship, to be with his family. Mickelsons wife, Amy, gave birth to their second daughter, Sophia Isabel, on Oct. 23.
The 19-time tour winner also withdrew from the season-opening Mercedes Championships.
News, Notes and Numbers
*J. P. Hayes tied a tour record with eight consecutive birdies at PGA Wests Arnold Palmer Private Course. Hayes, who started on the 10th hole, birdied Nos. 13-2. He shot 7-under 65, bogeying the par-5 sixth.
*Joe Durant, who set a 90-hole tour scoring record with his 36-under 324 winning total a year ago, opened his title defense in 1-under 71. Hes tied for 89th.
*The average winning score over the past five years is 30-under-par.
*Last year, Arnold Palmer shot his age (71) in the first round. This year, the five-time Bob Hope champion opened in 78.
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