Mickelson surges into Northern Trust lead

Phil Mickelson produced an impressive round of 63 at Riviera Country Club to take a one-shot lead after yesterday’s first round of the Northern Trust Open was suspended due to darkness.

Phil Mickelson produced an impressive round of 63 at Riviera Country Club to take a one-shot lead after yesterday’s first round of the Northern Trust Open was suspended due to darkness.

Defending champion Mickelson fired an eight-under-par effort that saw him lead fellow American Scott McCarronby by one stroke.

Four golfers were still on the course when play was halted and will resume their rounds at 10.45am local time today.

Mickelson, who has not finished higher than 42nd in his first three events of the PGA Tour season, showed signs he was coming back into form in birdieing four of his first eight holes after starting on the back nine. The left-hander then picked up shots at the first, third, fourth and seventh to complete a satisfying day‘s work.

McCarron also sank eight birdies but dropped a stroke on the par-four 13th to sign for a seven-under 64.

A group of seven golfers that includes Dustin Johnson and Jim Furyk are a further two shots back on five-under,

Johnson, who won the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am last week, carded six birdies and a bogey in his 66. After reaching the turn at one-under, the 24-year-old birdied the 11th, 13th, 15th and 17th.

Also tied for third place are Luke Donald, KJ Choi, John Merrick, Dean Wilson and Andres Romero.

Mickelson was pleased to have rediscovered his touch, underlining his low score was built on an improved short game.

“It was a good start and I feel like I’m back on the right track,” he said.

“At least my misses were much better. I felt much better with the putter and my short game was as good as it’s been. I hit a lot of good shots around the greens to save strokes.

Mickelson won the tournament for the first time in his career last year with a two-stroke victory.

“It helps having won here last year and played well the year before. I have a lot of confidence coming onto this golf course,” he added.

“I’m glad the last three days I was able to get some good work done and get back on track, I think.”

Some of Mickelson’s struggles were of his own making as the left-hander had been playing with some new equipment.

“I was trying a little bit different shafts with some of my irons and wasn’t quite matching up the way I would like, so I just went back to my set from last year and tried to eliminate any variables,” he said.

“I don’t think it was the shaft, though, given my swing. I was hitting my old clubs poorly too. I just had to eliminate some variables because I wasn’t playing the way I wanted to.”

McCarron, meanwhile, felt his fine start was somewhat fortunate.

“I don’t know if the scoring conditions are ever ripe to get Riviera,” he said.

“This is such a tough golf course. You’ve got to hit so many good shots and today I was very fortunate and came away with a good number.”

Johnson, on the other hand, felt he was reaping the rewards of his hard work.

“I don’t know, golf, when you’re playing well, you just kind of keep going,” he said.

“You know, I’ve been working pretty hard on the game and it’s feeling good right now. Everything is going well. Everything feels really good.”

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