Phil Mickelson calls his 4-under 68 'phenomenal' in return to golf from surgery

I'll say this about Phil Mickelson: The man knows how to make a splash. Big Lefty made his 2017 debut on Thursday at the CareerBuilder Challenge where he doubles as the tournament ambassador.

Mickelson, who hasn't played since October and underwent two sports hernia surgeries in the offseason, shot an impressive 4-under 68 and is just four strokes off the lead.

He carded five birdies and a bogey on the day and also rocked a logo of himself on his rain jacket. The likeness is of him leaping in the air at the 2004 Masters, which was his first major championship. Here's a closer look.

Mickelson said that, all things considered, Thursday's 68 was a success.

"I thought it was phenomenal," said Mickelson. "I struck it horrible, but I scored out of my mind. So I'm very happy with it. My first round of golf was Saturday, and I've been able to work out just the last two weeks. In the last three months, I haven't been able to do much, but the last two weeks I've been able to work out, been practicing for a week, game is rusty, but body feels good.

"And there's no better place to learn and to get better than to come out here on these great golf courses and put it to the test. Around here you can get away with some mistakes, and I was able to salvage a few pars with up-and-downs, so it doesn't beat you up too bad. It's a perfect place to start the year, and it's fun for me to be involved with the event and fun for me to be able to play it."

He also commented on that hilarious and amazing Air Phil logo.

"We have been working on something that we'll be involved with later in the year that I'm not really ready to talk about, but it's just been a fun offseason," said Mickelson. "Although I've had surgeries, I've been able to spend time with my family and kind of plan for some things in the future, and it's been really an exciting time."

It was a bit of a surprise that Lefty played at all. It was presumed that his debut this calendar year would come next week in his home town of San Diego at the Farmers Insurance Open. But it is clear that this even matters to him, too. He's the ambassador for the CareerBuilder Challenge, and he wanted to give the fans a show despite a bit of rust from not being able to practice much (Mickelson only started hitting balls again on Jan. 12). Mickelson said his recovery from the small sports hernia removal (and follow up) was not major.

"It's really not a big deal surgery," said Mickelson. "It was a minor thing, put a mesh in. I didn't think I would have to do it twice, but threw a few meshes in there to stop the intestines from going through the muscle. But it's not a big thing. Now that I've been able to start working out, again, it comes back quick. I feel fine, I feel really good."

He did on Thursday anyway. Whether he can sustain that pace all week remains to be seen. Mickelson is T25 after Round 1, and he trails leader Dominic Bozzelli by four strokes. Still, this is an easy tournament to score at, and Mickelson is one of the great scorers in PGA Tour history.

Mickelson has won this tournament twice and finished in the top five last year. He also hasn't won on the PGA Tour since the 2013 Open Championship.

CBS Sports Writer

Kyle Porter began his sports writing career with CBS Sports in 2012. He covers golf, writes poetry about Rory McIlroy's swing, stays ready on Tiger watch and loves the Masters more than anyone you know.... Full Bio

Our Latest Stories