Mickelson finds opening round taxing at Torrey Pines

Thu Jan 24, 2013 8:00pm EST
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By Mark Lamport-Stokes

SAN DIEGO (Reuters) - Having begun this week in 'damage limitation' mode after making unwise public comments about his tax concerns, Phil Mickelson made an erratic start to the Farmers Insurance Open on Thursday.

A three-times champion at the picturesque Torrey Pines venue which hugs the bluffs above the Pacific Ocean, Mickelson struggled on the greens on the way to a level-par 72 in the opening round.

The American left-hander offset four birdies with four bogeys on the easier North Course and knows he will have to respond with a low score on the tougher South layout in Friday's second round if he is to climb into contention.

"There are some low scores out there if you play the course right and effectively," Mickelson told reporters about 7,698-yard South. "There are probably half the holes where you've got to play for par and the other half you can make some birdies."

Asked if it was possible for a player to win the tournament without scorching the North layout, Mickelson replied: "Sure. It's going to take some exceptional golf over on the South, but three of the rounds (this week) are on the South.

"I've got to shoot something in the sixties, and see if I can get a couple of putts to go (in). I putted very poorly today so I've got to get that putter going. If I can putt well, hopefully, the mid-sixties."

Mickelson, who has twice apologized this week for what he described as "insensitive" and "dumb" comments about soaring tax rates for millionaires in his native California, totaled 30 putts in the opening round.

"I didn't play the best. I hit it poorly. I putted poorly," the four-times major winner said.   Continued...

U.S. golfer Phil Mickelson hits off the 11th tee of the north course at Torrey Pines during first round play at the Farmers Insurance Open in San Diego, California January 24, 2013. REUTERS/Mike Blake