MIAMI | The bar-bet question of the day is, “Which player leads the PGA Tour in scoring average this season?”
Rickie Fowler is a good guess but wrong.
Adam Scott is another good guess but also wrong … by a small fraction.
The answer is Phil Mickelson, who improved on his 69.033 scoring average Thursday when he shot a 5-under-par 67 in the opening round of the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Trump National Doral.
Mickelson isn’t leading – Scott Piercy and Marcus Fraser share that distinction after shooting 66 on the gray, soft afternoon – but he continues to play like a man who’s found a new toy. The swing changes he implemented late last year with new coach Andrew Getson have given Mickelson renewed confidence in his ball striking and, though he hasn’t won since the 2013 Open Championship, he is putting himself in position to contend again.
“Getting off to a 5-under-par round allows me to just go out and play the way I’ve been playing and not have to press the issue and go really low to get in contention on the weekend,” said Mickelson, whose 67 included two bogeys.
The swing tweaks have given Mickelson better control of the clubface, reducing the amount of manipulation required to square the club up at impact, which created his inconsistent ball striking in recent years.
It has changed Mickelson’s mindset from trepidation to anticipation.
Already this season, he has tied for third at the CareerBuilder Challenge, tied for 11th at the Waste Management Phoenix Open and finished second at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am where he missed a 5-footer to force a playoff on the 72nd hole.
At age 45, Mickelson is twice the age of world No. 1 Jordan Spieth but feeling enthused again.
“The ball, the scorecard, they don’t know the difference in age,” Mickelson said.