- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 17, 2002

LA QUINTA, Calif. (AP) Phil Mickelson apparently didn’t accumulate much rust during his five-month break from the PGA Tour.

In his first tournament since Aug. 26, Mickelson shot an 8-under 64 yesterday to join a group of five others one shot behind co-leaders Jay Haas and Brandel Chamblee at the Bob Hope Classic.

Mickelson took time off for the birth of his second child, a daughter born on Oct. 23, and extended the break to be with his family.

Since shooting a 2-over 72 in the final round of the NEC Invitational in August, he skipped two marquee events the season-ending Tour Championship, for the top 30 on the money list, and the season-opening Mercedes Championships, for winners only.

“I’m excited to be back out here playing,” Mickelson said. “It [the time off] was very enjoyable for our family.

“I didn’t feel rusty. I’ve been practicing and playing, using the time to improve my game away from the competitive atmosphere.”

He said that he expects to take a rather long break again at the end of this year, although it probably won’t be for five months.

“I will play the Ryder Cup, the Tour Championship and maybe one other event,” said Mickelson, who won two times, had 13 finishes in the top 10 and was second in earnings with $4.4 million last year.

With Mickelson at 8-under were Jerry Kelly, last week’s winner in Hawaii, Heath Slocum, Kirk Triplett, Glen Hnatiuk and John Senden. Mark O’Meara, Corey Pavin and J.P. Hayes were in a group two shots off the lead.

Most of those on the Hope leaderboard, including Haas, Chamblee and Mickelson, played at Tamarisk Country Club, one of the four desert courses used during the tournament.

But Hayes tied a PGA record on the Palmer Course at PGA West when he birdied eight consecutive holes on his way to a 65.

Joe Durant, who set a tour record for a five-day tournament with his 36-under at the Hope last year, opened with a 71. Jesper Parnevik, the 2000 champion who withdrew last year to be with his wife for the birth of their fourth child, shot an opening 68.

Haas, the tournament champion 14 years ago, turned what he called “a magical day on the greens” into a share of the lead.

Haas, 48, rolled in a tricky 40-footer and made several putts in the 12-to-25-foot range yesterday.

“I putted about as well as I’ve ever putted before,” said Haas, whose 1988 Hope victory is among his nine career titles.

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