The first round of the 2014 Waste Management Phoenix Open is (almost) in the books, and the folks at TPC Scottsdale have to be happy with some of the names populating the first page of the leaderboard. Bubba Watson, who was out late in the afternoon, closed strong with four birdies in his last six holes to take a share of the lead at 7-under. Watson had a chance to take the outright lead on the 18th green, but his birdie putt did not have enough juice on it. He'll sleep on the 18-hole lead with Y.E. Yang, whose last PGA Tour win was also a major.
Since he won the 2012 Masters, Watson has put it in cruise control a bit, rightly spending more time with his family and adopted son, but also checking out of some big events with inconsistent form. He's a temperamental force, and an early win in the 2014 season at a place he loves could reset things a bit for the ultra talented lefty. The highlight of Watson's round was undoubtedly at the famous par-3 16th, where he dropped his tee shot right on top of the pin on a hole that was actually playing much tougher than normal. Watson, of course, played to the stadium-style crowd at the season's most rowdy hole (via PGATour):
And here's a snapshot of the kind of 16th hole denizen and scene you get there late in the day, as Watson converted the birdie putt:
Can tell it's getting late in the day on 16 https://t.co/LElqyDKpAD— Brendan (@BrendanPorath) January 30, 2014
In addition to Watson, fellow American stars Keegan Bradley, Hunter Mahan and Harris English are also inside the top 10.
Phil Mickelson, who announced Wednesday night that he would give it a go and "take it easy" playing with a balky back, finished the day seven shots off the pace at even-par. Mickelson was out early in the morning, in cooler temperatures and with less time to loosen up the back. He was a little frustrated with the outcome and blamed a bit of "rustiness" on some of the missed opportunities. The Hall of Famer didn't seem concerned, however, and just said he needed to go out and get a "hot round" going on Friday. As we saw last year when he nearly shot 59, Mickelson, bad back and all, is certainly capable of posting in the mid-60s on this second home course in front of the welcoming crowd.
Here's the first round leaderboard, with 10 players still out on the course because darkness fell Thursday before completion of the first round:
|T10||Brendon de Jonge||-5|
|T51||Charles Howell III||-1|
|T65||Richard H. Lee||E|
|T103||Ted Potter, Jr.||2|
|T103||Ki Taek Lee (a)||2|
|T124||Joey Snyder III||5|
|T124||Bo Van Pelt||5|