Mickelson begins 27th PGA Tour season at Safeway Open
NAPA, Calif. (AP) — Four days after a strong showing in the United States’ victory in the Presidents Cup, Phil Mickelson begins his 27th PGA Tour season Thursday seeking his first individual win since 2013 in the season-opening Safeway Open.
Mickelson, winner of 42 career PGA Tour events including five majors, will be joined at Silverado by 12-time PGA Tour winner Zach Johnson as well as Emiliano Grillo and Adam Hadwin, who also played in the Presidents Cup.
“I’m really excited to play because I have been playing well,” the 47-year-old Mickelson said. “I am excited to get back into competition. I am going to have a good chance.”
Mickelson, who had five top-10 finishes last season in 22 events, is playing in his 91st tour event since his win at the 2013 British Open.
“My game is back to where I’ve been wanting it to be, and I have an opportunity to start the new season with a little bit of momentum,” said Mickelson, who opened last season with an eighth-place finish in the Safeway Open, shooting four rounds in the 60s. “It’s a fun, strategic golf course and there are multiple ways to play it. So when you feel well, you take a little bit more aggressive lines off the tee.”
Mickelson has 11 PGA Tour titles in California, his home state.
“I think a lot of the guys struggle with the poa annua greens, which is a grass I grew up playing,” he said. “I am very comfortable on the greens. If you grew up in Florida on Bermuda grass, this is a very awkward surface to putt on. The color is different and it’s sometimes hard to read.”
Johnson, playing in the event for the first time, is seeking his first PGA Tour win since the 2015 British Open.
“My game feels good and that’s part of the reason I’m here,” said Johnson, who had four top-10 finishes last season including second in the Bridgestone Invitational, a World Golf Championship. “I look at what I have in front of me the next month and a half or so, and I might have seven or eight weeks off. That’s a bit too much. I think it’s good to stay competitive. I thought this week is a really good way to stay fresh and get some work done and the assess.”
Last year’s winner, Brendan Steele, and well as fellow former champions Jonas Blixt (2012), Sangmoon Bae (2014) and Grillo (2015) also are in the field.
Steele birdied his last three holes to overcome a four-shot deficit for his second PGA Tour victory with a one-shot margin last year over Patton Kizzire.
Bae, a two-time PGA Tour winner, is making his first PGA Tour start since a mandatory two years of military service in South Korea. He last played in the 2015 Presidents Cup.
Maverick McNeal, 21, the former world’s top amateur and Stanford standout, is making his pro debut after eight amateur starts on the PGA Tour.
John Daly, a two-time major winner who last May claimed his first PGA Tour Champions title, also in the field on a sponsor exemption. Daly has missed the cut in his last 12 PGA Tour starts dating to March 2015.