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PGA TOUR Mickelson opens 3-shot lead at Pebble



Published: Fri, February 11, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Scrambling birdies helped Lefty establish the course record of 62.

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. (AP) -- Phil Mickelson keeps hitting it long and going low.

Fresh off a career-low 60 last week in Phoenix that led to his first victory of the year, Mickelson broke the course record at Spyglass Hill -- the toughest course in the rotation -- with a 10-under 62 that gave him a three-shot lead Thursday in the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

"Honestly, I've never driven it this far," Mickelson said.

He took advantage of pristine conditions on the Monterey Peninsula, with brilliant blue skies and only a trace of wind that made Pebble Beach, Spyglass and Poppy Hills so tame that more than half the 180-man field broke par.

Only Lefty

And as always, Mickelson was a thrill a minute.

One birdie came out of a bed of ice plant on the fourth hole. Another came on the 527-yard seventh hole, when Mickelson hit a 6-iron off the cart path to the edge of the green and easily got up and down. He hit driver on the 325-yard 17th hole that left him 8 yards from the front of the green, leading to a tap-in birdie.

A 15-foot birdie on the final hole gave Mickelson a three-shot lead over Davis Love III, Charles Howell III, Kevin Sutherland, Daniel Chopra and Hunter Mahan.

It was the largest first-round lead at this tournament since Tom Watson led by three in 1978. Mickelson's 62 was two shots better than the previous course record at Spyglass, last set by David Berganio four years ago.

"A 62 is good at Bermuda Dunes," Sutherland said. "A 62 at Spyglass is a whole different story. That's an amazing round."

Sutherland didn't see it; he shot his 65 at Poppy Hills.

Loud roar

But he heard it.

"We were on the 18th tee, and it's amazing to say this, but we heard a roar," Sutherland said. "That's got to be a couple miles away. We heard it pretty easily, and I thought it can only be one person. I'm not sure it was him, but a 62 at Spyglass? I'm sure it was."

The only question was which shot produced the big cheer. It might have been the 40-foot chip-in from across the second green, or the 4-wood on the 560-yard 14th hole to within 25 feet for an easy birdie.

Howell took advantage of the weather with a bogey-free round at Pebble Beach, highlighted by an 80-foot bunker shot that grazed the edge of the cup on the 18th for a tap-in birdie.

Mahan and Chopra also played Pebble, while Sutherland and Love had the best score at Poppy Hills.

Love, who has won Pebble twice in the last four years, made the turn in 31 and was even par the rest of the way until closing with an eagle for his 65.

Mike Weir had a 6-under 66 at Poppy Hills, while British Open champion Todd Hamilton was among those at 65.

Defending champion Vijay Singh played five groups behind Mickelson at Spyglass, and wound up 11 shots behind after opening with a 73, only his second time over par in his last 21 rounds at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.




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