Tiger Woods hopes for better Saturday

Updated: February 10, 2012, 9:28 PM ET
By Bob Harig | ESPN.com

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- Most of the attention has been on Tiger Woods this week as he makes his season debut on the PGA Tour at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

But while Woods struggled to get approach shots close to the hole or putts to drop -- or both -- it was Phil Mickelson who made a nice run up the leaderboard, shooting a 5-under-par 65 at Monterey Peninsula Country Club on Friday.

You remember Mickelson: a man nicknamed Lefty and winner of 39 PGA Tour titles, including three at Pebble Beach. He's playing in this tournament for the 17th time -- almost an afterthought.

Playing on opposite nines at Monterey, Woods had the bigger gallery but Mickelson was the one who managed to sneak into the top-10 with his 5-under-par effort that put him in a tie for eighth, five strokes back of leader Charlie Wi.

Wi escaped most of the rain at Pebble Beach, where he holed a wedge from the 13th fairway for eagle and limited the damage to a bogey on his final hole for a 3-under 69 that allowed him to open a three-shot lead.

"It was an interesting day," said Mickelson, who is off to a poor start this season, having finished no better than 26th in his first three events. "We had perfect weather. Then the back nine when the weather came in, I don't know what happened, but I started to play a lot better and make some birdies.

"In the perfect conditions, I struggled. But to play these golf courses in such great condition either way has been a lot of fun."

It wasn't so much the case for Woods, who injured his wrist while hitting a shot on the eighth hole -- he later said he was fine -- and again struggled to put all aspects of his game together.

He had an impressive day off the tee and in hitting greens, managing to miss just two of 13 fairways while hitting 16 of 18 greens. But he had 33 putts, including a three-putt green at the fourth hole for one of his bogeys.

Woods missed three putts inside of 10 feet and had a couple of lip-outs as well in a round of 2-under-par 68 that left him tied for 17th, 6 strokes back.

It was a familiar tale, as Woods at times had difficulty putting all aspects of his game together in the same round.

"It's very close,'' he said. "I got my ball striking to where I feel very comfortable hitting the shots. I just need to make a couple of putts to get on a roll. But today was different. Today was just a spot where I didn't hit the ball in the correct spots to give myself these looks. Especially with the greens getting soft like this, you just can't be above the hole and try and die them in there."

The sun-splashed skies of Thursday returned Friday morning but didn't last. The mist rolled in and soon it was raining for most of Woods' final nine. Unfortunately for Woods, he came unprepared -- no rain gear, no umbrella, although he hardly seemed to consider it an excuse.

"My dad always said you only get wet once,'' he said.

Woods and Mickelson will be chasing Wi, who has never won on the PGA Tour, and Dustin Johnson, a five-time tour winner who has won twice at Pebble Beach. Johnson shot 72 at Spyglass Hill and is three strokes back of Wi.

Wi was at 12-under 130 and now heads to Spyglass Hill, which has played slightly tougher than the other two courses.

In these shifting conditions, Spyglass played about two shots harder than it did Thursday, while Pebble Beach and Monterey Peninsula were about one shot more difficult than the day before.

"I thought Pebble played really difficult today," Wi said. "The greens were very firm, and the guys that shot 8 or 9 under out there, I was very surprised how well they played. Some of the pins were really tricky. I said, 'Gosh, how did they shoot 9 under out there?' And for me to shoot 3 under today, I was very pleased."

Wi figured it out toward the end of the way, as the light rain swept over the peninsula. During the practice round, he hit a driver and a 9-iron on the ninth hole. It was his final hole Friday, and he hit a driver and a hybrid.

That didn't work out so well. He pulled his approach into a crevice of thick rough, chopped out over the green and only a good pitch to tap-in range helped him avoid something worse than a bogey.

Others in contention are three-time major winners Vijay Singh and Padraig Harrington. Singh shot 68 at Spyglass to finish four strokes back of Wi and in a tie for third with Harrington, whose 6-under-par 66 came at Pebble Beach. Hunter Mahan, who ventured to Qatar last week after playing in San Diego, shot 70 at Pebble Beach and is in a tie for eighth along with Mickelson.

Both Mickelson and Woods move to Pebble Beach on Saturday in the three-course rotation. After 54 holes, a cut will be made to the top 60 players and ties. Woods and Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo are tied for 50th in the team competition, with only the top 25 advancing to Sunday.

"I'm going to have to shoot a low one tomorrow because some of the guys will be coming over here (Monterey Peninsula) and playing here," he said. "Looking for some of those guys to shoot 5, 6, 7, 8 under par. So I'm going to have to shoot a low one tomorrow to give myself a chance going into Sunday."

Woods, who won this tournament in 2000, does have some history there. He shot 63-64 on the weekend at Pebble Beach in 1997 to finish runner-up to Mark O'Meara.

Bob Harig covers golf for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Bob Harig | email

Golf Writer, ESPN.com

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