Mickelson aims to get back on track at Pebble Beach

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Feb 06 2014 05:02 PM | Updated as of Feb 07 2014 01:03 AM

PEBBLE BEACH - Phil Mickelson has plenty of good memories to draw on as he tries to get his 2014 US PGA Tour campaign on track this week at Pebble Beach.

The world number four is a four-time winner of the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, and he'll be hoping a return to the iconic course on the northern California coast will mark a change in his recent fortunes.

After a runner-up finish in the European Tour event in Abu Dhabi in January, Mickelson was forced out of the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines with a sore back.

After a cross-country trip to seek treatment in Atlanta he teed it up last week in Phoenix, where he was the defending champion.

He finished tied for 42nd, and acknowledged that his iron play let him down.

"My game is not far off, even though the score says that it is," Mickelson said last week. "It was just a fraction off."

Mickelson is among seven top-21 players in the world competing this week, all playing alongside amateur partners for at least the first three rounds.

The celebrity amateurs who will tee up include Denver Broncos quarter-back Peyton Manning, less than a week after a blowout loss to the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl 48.

Defending champion Brandt Snedeker and two-time winner Dustin Johnson are among the marquee names in the professional field.

Snedeker fired four rounds in the 60s last year, including a seven-under-par 65 in the final round. His total of 267 bettered the previous tournament record of 268 achieved by both Mark O'Meara and Mickelson.

The players will rotate between three courses -- Pebble Beach, Monterey Peninsula and Spyglass Hill -- for the first three rounds before the final round is contested at Pebble Beach.

Manning isn't the only NFL quarter-back who will test himself on the amateur side. New England's Tom Brady, Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers and Alex Smith of Kansas City are also entered. Actors, including Don Cheadle and Kurt Russell, and musicians, including Kenny G and Kid Rock, are also among the celebrity field.

Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell will take advantage of the pro-am format to play with his father, Kenny McDowell.

McDowell will be returning to Pebble Beach for the first time since he won the 2010 US Open here, but he said he was mainly counting on this week to ease him into 2014 after a 10-week break from competition.

"We're having fun, embracing it," he said of playing with his father. "I think my dad's goal for the week is really to have a beer with Clint Eastwood, hopefully, on Friday night."

Last year McDowell ended his off-season break at Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles, where he missed the cut.

"Riviera was quite a tricky place to start my season," he said. "Coming in with the rust on my game, which is inevitable, you're just not game sharp, you're not competitively sharp.

"So I thought why not come to the pro-am here, have some fun, play golf courses which are maybe not set up as tough as regular tournaments would be.

"You get three rounds under your belt minimum. At least by the end of the week I'll know where I'm at."

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