DORAL — Phil Mickelson's scores from Doral over the past two years suggested that the redesigned Blue Monster wasn't completely to his liking.
He had to relearn a course that he had played for more than 20 years, and "Lefty" indicated Thursday that he finally has the new Doral figured out.
Mickelson shot 5-under 67 in the opening round of the Cadillac Championship, the first World Golf Championships event of the year. Seeking his first win since the British Open in 2013, Mickelson made seven birdies and finished one shot back of leaders Scott Piercy and Marcus Fraser.
"There is a bit of a learning curve on some of the contours and where you have to go and where you want to go and the best place to be," Mickelson said. "It's not like I came in here weeks before and mapped it out like (at) a major. … But this is our third year here now, and it continues to get better each year."
Fraser had seven birdies before his lone bogey of the day, and Piercy also got to 7 under at one point before settling for his 66.
Mickelson made bogey twice, immediately erasing each with a birdie on the next hole, and the 67 was nearly six full shots better than his average round score at Doral in his previous two visits. His best round on the Blue Monster in 2014 was 69; his low score last year was 71.
"It was a good day," said Mickelson, who has shot in the 60s in the first round of each of his six starts this year. "I hit a lot of good shots, made some good putts and just drove it well, enjoyed the day."
Danny Willett, Adam Scott, Jason Dufner and Charley Hoffman were two shots back of the leaders. World No. 1 Jordan Spieth was with Bubba Watson and Jimmy Walker another shot back. He said that even on a relatively calm day by Doral weather standards, it felt like a grind.
"It always is here," Spieth said. "And this would be a day that should play about as easy as it possibly can with just a 5- to 10-mile-an-hour breeze. … Still, the scores aren't extremely low."
Spieth played in a group with world No. 2 Jason Day and No. 3 Rory McIlroy. McIlroy shot 1 under; Day finished at par 72.
Day attributed his score to "human error."
"I wish I could hit it in the center of the golf club all the time, but sometimes I'm like an amateur and I hit it in the parts where we're not supposed to," he said.
McIlroy created a splash last year when he tossed his 3-iron into the water after one less-than-stellar approach shot. He didn't throw any clubs Thursday but thought about it.
McIlroy feigned the motion after a three-putt at the par-3 ninth in his first competitive round in some time in which he tried the left-hand-low putting style that has worked for him in practice. McIlroy left some putts short but said that was more due to him being unsuccessful at gauging speed.
"Need to adjust for that (today), but overall, felt like it was good," McIlroy said.
LPGA: Minjee Lee and Candie Kung shared the lead at the HSBC Champions with 5-under 67s in Singapore. Defending champion Inbee Park was in a group of four at 68. Seminole's Brittany Lincicome was 2 over.