The three-time Masters champion rallied on the back nine to shoot 1-under-par 71 in Thursday’s first round, leaving him five shots off the pace.
“I lost a lot of ground shooting 1-under par today,” said Mickelson, who has 22 players ahead of him.
Because of the surprisingly soft conditions of the greens, Mickelson said, “I’ve got to change my whole mindset and get after these pins, because the ball isn’t running like it used to. I’m giving this course way too much respect because of our past knowledge than the way I should be playing it today.”
As Mickelson feared, because he didn’t play the week before the Masters, as is his custom, he started off slow. He shot 2-over-par 38 on the front nine then came home in 3-under 33 with birdies on Nos. 12, 13, 15, 16 and a bogey on No. 17.
“It’s pretty much what I anticipated on Tuesday when we talked,” he told the media after his round Thursday. “I thought I would come out a little passive and tentative, and I did. I didn’t feel great starting out or confident because I hadn’t been in competition in a while. But the back nine, after nine holes, I started to feel good with my swing and started to have confidence in my shots.
“I felt much better about my game as the round wore on and I can’t wait to get back out there tomorrow, because I feel like I have a low round in me tomorrow,”
Mickelson raved about his Phrankenwood, which made its competitive debut Thursday. The club, specially made by Callaway for Mickelson, has a smaller head than a normal driver. Using 3-wood technology, it gives Mickelson a flatter ball flight, with less spin, and more distance.
With it, he was ninth in the field in driving distance at 311 yards and hit eight of 14 fairways off the tee.
“I really feel like this is a good thing for me,” he said. “I hit hellacious bombs on 13 and 15.”
On the 13th hole, Mickelson hit the green with an 8-iron second shot. On No. 15, he did it with a 9-iron,
“I don’t have that into those holes normally,” he said. “This club got way out on 13 with that cut than it normally does. And on 15, I was down there by those trees. I’m never down there. I’m normally hitting 4-, 5- or 6-iron in there and it was a 9-iron.