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Phil ‘drove it like a stallion’ en route to first-round 68 at Pebble

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PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Phil Mickelson was glowing after closing with three straight birdies Thursday to get in early contention to win the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am for a record sixth time.

The spark in his eyes was more about all those “bombs” he continued to hit in a 4-under-par 68 at Spyglass Hill, which left him four shots off the lead.

“I drove it like a stallion,” Mickelson said. “Hit almost every fairway.

“And when you’re doing that you can get aggressive and get after it.”

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Actually, Mickelson hit 10 of 14 fairways, but what mattered is how much control he felt off the tee. He hit 15 greens and believed he should have posted an even lower number. He wasn’t satisfied with his iron play or his putting.

“The fact that I didn't take advantage of those opportunities was disappointing, but I feel like I'll be able to continue driving it like that, and if I do, I'll get my iron play fixed and roll in some more birdies,” he said.

Those three closing birdies sent him rocketing up the leaderboard.

“It was a good finish,” he said. “I let a lot of shots slide throughout the middle of the round. My speed was a little bit off. I was very tentative with my pace, because the greens were pretty quick, and I just wasn't quite aggressive enough on the greens. I let a lot of opportunities slide.

“But I shot a 4-under par round and it's not going to hurt me. If I go out tomorrow and play well at Monterey Peninsula, I can get a hot round going and move right up the leaderboard, so that finish was very helpful.”