Back in action: Mickelson plays pain-free, even par 71 first round

They say pain is only temporary, right?

No one will know just how much Waste Management Phoenix Open defending champion Phil Mickelson’s back was bothering him during Thursday’s first round at TPC Scottsdale. The former Arizona State star completed an up-and-down even par 71 but insisted his lower back, which forced him to withdraw from The Farmers Insurance Open last week, wasn’t an issue.

“I physically feel good,” Mickelson explained to the media. “I feel my game is sharp even though I haven’t been able to practice too much. I felt like it was going to be a good day, a good tournament.”

“Lefty,” who teed on 10, shot a one-under 34 on the front nine made some irresponsible swings, hitting into the water on twelve which he called “pathetic.” He played the final three holes at three over.

He insisted his lower back was a “five-minute fix” and didn’t bother him after teeing off around 8:15 Thursday morning, although he appeared to grab his back at one point during the front nine. Mickelson said his flexibility has returned and felt good during Wednesday’s one-hour practice session at nearby Whisper Rock Golf Club. He stressed it will be important to keep an eye on it for the next couple weeks to make sure it doesn’t flare up again.

Mickelson is optimistic for lower scores, better results starting Friday afternoon when he tees up for round two.

“[My] game isn’t far off,” he said. “There’s that low round out there (referring to his opening round 60 in 2013)…I just need one of those again.”