SCOTTSDALE, Arizona (Reuters) - While Tiger Woods struggled in his first PGA Tour start of the season, Keegan Bradley birdied four of his last eight holes to seize an early one-shot lead at the Waste Management Phoenix Open on Thursday.
Bradley, who recently switched back from a long to a short putter, produced a sizzling display of all-round golf on the way to a six-under-par 65 in the opening round at the TPC Scottsdale.
The 28-year-old American racked up seven birdies and a lone bogey to end a mainly overcast day in the Arizona desert one stroke ahead of compatriots Zach Johnson, Robert Streb and Ben Martin, and Scotland’s Martin Laird.
“Feels so good to go out and play a really solid round tee to green,” Bradley, a three-times winner on the PGA Tour, told reporters.
“Made a bunch of putts, which feels good. It’s a relief to go out and shoot a good number in the first round to hopefully get my season going.”
Woods, however, looked very rusty in his first PGA Tour event in five months, especially struggling with his short game as he reached the turn in a messy four-over 39.
Watched by massive galleries more reminiscent of a major championship than a regular tour event, the former world number one mixed three bogeys with a double at the par-three fourth and a sole birdie to plummet well down the leaderboard.
Twice major champion Angel Cabrera of Argentina was among a group of six players knotted on 67 while three-times former winner Phil Mickelson, a popular figure at Scottsdale after attending the nearby Arizona State University, carded a 69.
Left-hander Mickelson was relieved to cover his back nine in three-under 32 after making a slow start that included an ugly double bogey at the par-five 15th where he twice hit shots into water.
“I feel like I‘m driving the ball well and hitting some good shots,” said Mickelson, who failed to win on the PGA Tour last season, his first title drought on the U.S. circuit since 2003.
”I came out and I just made a bunch of dumb mistakes and I‘m three over. I ended up playing the front nine (his second) really solid ... hit a lot of good shots.
“This was an important thing for me, because I‘m in a position now if I get hot tomorrow I can get right back in it.”
Editing by Gene Cherry