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Originally published Thursday, January 30, 2014 at 7:23 PM

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Mickelson says back fine but game rusty after a 71

From the moment Phil Mickelson set foot at TPC Scottsdale early Thursday morning, it was clear the back pain that sidelined him last weekend was gone.


The Associated Press

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — From the moment Phil Mickelson set foot at TPC Scottsdale early Thursday morning, it was clear the back pain that sidelined him last weekend was gone.

It also was quickly evident that his game was a little off.

“My back is fine. My game was a little rusty,” Mickelson said after opening his Phoenix Open title defense with an even-par 71.

“I threw away a lot of shots,” Mickelson said. “I made some careless swings. Hitting it in the water on 12 was just pathetic.”

He was seven strokes behind leaders Bubba Watson and Y.E. Yang, who each shot 64.

“I got off to a poor start, played a couple over, and finished poorly,” Mickelson said. “In the middle of the round, though, I hit a lot of good shots and had a good little run, but it just wasn’t quite sharp. I wasn’t quite focused on every shot the way I need to be and let way too many shots slide.”

Watson birdied four of the final six holes. The 2012 Masters champion had eight birdies and a bogey in the afternoon session.

Ryan Moore of Puyallup shot a 66. Michael Putnam from University Place had a 67. Former Husky Richard H. Lee shot a 71.

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Rory McIlroy took another step toward regaining his form with his lowest score in more than three years, a 9-under 63 while playing with Tiger Woods to take a two-shot lead in the Dubai Desert Classic.

McIlroy played bogey-free in ideal scoring conditions on the Maglis course at Emirates Golf Club, picking up six birdies and an eagle during a 10-hole stretch in the middle of his round. He easily upstaged Woods, who was five shots behind after a 68.

Seattle native and former Dubai champion Fred Couples shot 70.



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