PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Phil Mickelson hit every fairway at Monterey Peninsula Country Club Thursday in the first round of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am on his way to a 6-under 65.
Mickelson reveled in the feat, as he amusingly announced the momentous nature of it all when he left the scoring tent. After the first round he's in early contention to win this event for the fifth time.
“History was made today,” he told media. “To the best of my knowledge, it's taken me 27 years and a few months to hit all fairways in a single round in a competition.
“I may have done it before, but I don't ever recall doing it.”
Actually, he has done it before, but forgive the man for not remembering. It’s been 20 years. He last did it at the Farmers Insurance Open in 1998.
A friendly, needling inquisitor also reminded Mickelson that the soft, wet nature of the course made fairways play wider than they typically do at the Monterey Peninsula.
“Well, let’s not nitpick here,” Mickelson cracked. “If you hit them all, that’s all that matters.”
Mickelson sits just one shot behind the leaders, Brian Gay and Scott Langley, who also played Monterey Peninsula in the three-course rotation.
Mickelson had a blast getting himself in an early position to contend for his 44th PGA Tour title. It was a great way to bounce back from missing the cut at last week's Waste Management Phoenix Open, where he had won three times.
It’s been an interesting start to the new year for Mickelson. He made a hard run at winning the Desert Classic in his first start of the calendar year, taking a two-shot lead into the final round before being overtaken by Adam Long’s sizzling finish. A cold putter betrayed him the final round. He followed that disappointment with the MC in Phoenix.
Mickelson was emboldened with Thursday’s fast start, knowing bad weather is expected to come in Friday, making any big charges tougher on the weekend. The PGA Tour moved Friday’s tee times up an hour to 7 a.m. local time because of the forecast.
“You don't know how it's all going to play out, but I think it's important to get off to a good start,” Mickelson said. “This was a day that we had great weather, the courses were very scorable, and so you need to take advantage of that.”
It wasn’t just the driver working for Mickelson in the first round. He hit all but one green in regulation.
“You got to drive the ball well to be able to attack, and I drove the ball very well today, obviously,” he said.
Mickelson won this event in 1998, ’05, ’07 and ’12.
He feels an emotional connection to the courses here.
“There's a few things within our family that go back to this place, where my grandfather grew up here,” Mickelson said. “He was one of the original caddies in the caddie group. And he would go around here for 25, 30 cents a loop.”
Mickelson’s grandfather, Al Santos, passed on his love for the courses to Phil.
“We would talk about this place and what it meant to him growing up,” Mickelson said. “And so there's an emotional tie to this place. I don't think it has anything to do with why I've played well here in the past, but you never know. It’s just that I always enjoy coming here.”
Mickelson gets to play Pebble Beach twice this year. The U.S. Open returns in June, when Mickelson will get another shot to try to complete the career Grand Slam. He isn’t thinking that far ahead, but a victory here this week will get the rest of golf doing just that.