PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Phil Mickelson was upset by his opening round of 71 at the Players, even going as far as to criticize the 13th hole at TPC Sawgrass' Stadium Course for being unfair. Ever the optimist, though, Mickelson ended his brief chat with reporters by saying, "I'll get out here tomorrow and see if I can put it together."
So far, so good. Lefty birdied the hole that caused him so much trouble on Day 1 and then finished his opening nine with a stretch of 3-3-3 on the Pete Dye track's signature stretch of holes. The flourish gave him an outgoing 31 and took him to six under for the tournament, just two shots out of the lead at the time of this post.
After a perfect drive on No. 16, Mickelson put his second shot on the back of the green at the risk-reward par 5, some 40 feet away. He drained the downhill putt for an eagle and as he walked to the daunting 17th tee, a fan stood up and gave him some advice: "Play it safe on this next one."
For once, the player known for his gambling style seemed to oblige. He hit a 9-iron to the middle of the green and two-putted for his par. On 18, he hit an aggressive 3-wood down the left side of the fairway before cutting an approach to a front-left pin to just three feet behind the hole. After watching his playing partners, Martin Laird and Gary Woodland, make a mess of the hole around him, the 2007 Players champion curled in his birdie putt on the right side and headed to the easier front nine in contention -- and in a lot better of a mood than he had been when he left the course the night before.
-- Alex Myers
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