Phil Mickelson cards 65 in Las Vegas, marking best round since February

Ryan YoungYahoo Sports Contributor

After an extremely rough eight-month stretch, Phil Mickelson finally looks back to his old self.

Mickelson fired a 6-under 65 on Thursday in the opening round of the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas, marking his lowest score since the World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship last February.

“I drove it well. Hit a lot of fairways. I did that yesterday in the pro-am, too. I did it at home,” Mickelson said, via Golfweek. “I had a great few days at home practicing. Right now, my iron play is back. It was a very weak spot of my game this past year. It's back to where it has been.”

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The 44-year-old got off to a hot start last season, finishing runner up at the Desert Classic and then grabbing his 44th career win at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in February.

Since then, though, it was all downhill for Lefty.

Mickelson missed eight cuts in his next 17 events on Tour, and only cracked the top-30 once — with a T18 finish at The Masters in April. He finished T71 at the PGA Championship and T52 at the U.S. Open, and missed the cut at The Open Championship, too.

Thursday, in his second appearance of the season, was finally a different story. Mickelson, who opened his day with a bogey, made three birdies on his front nine and then closed out his round with four birdies on the back to jump into T4 at TPC Summerlin. He now sits just two back of leaders Nick Taylor and Maverick McNealy.

Mickelson credits success, in part, to weight loss

Mickelson has lost at least 35 pounds since last summer, when he put a bigger focus on his personal health in what he described as a total “lifestyle change.” He’s eating better, working out more and finally feeling good again out on the course.

“When I first lost 25, 30 pounds I ended up not being as strong, but I've been in the gym now for the last quite a few weeks,” Mickelson said, via the PGA Tour. “The amount that I lift is now significantly more than it was before ... It's taken me a little while. Ultimately we all need to be accountable for our own health, and I haven't done a great job of that throughout my career. I wish I had done better. It's not too late. I'm getting after it now.

“I have a bunch more energy. Actually eating less has helped me have more energy. I find the more I eat the more lethargic I get. It's helped create a little bit better focus to finish the rounds off, so it's been a big part of it. But more than that, it just allows me to be my best and practice a little bit harder.”

Even though he appears to be coming off one of the worst stretches in his career, the five-time major champion hasn’t lost any love for the game itself.

He wants to keep playing for years to come, which was yet another reason he decided it was time to get back into shape.

"I love what I do," Mickelson said, via Golfweek. "I love the guys out here. I love the challenge of beating the guys out here. I love the travel, the cities we go to, the courses we play. And the challenge of playing golf at the highest level brings out the best in me. It forces me to get in the best shape, forces me to work hard and to focus on something positive, improving my game.

"I felt like I just needed to make a subtle fix here or there from last week. I've had an awful six months on and off the course, but things are great now and I'm excited to play good golf."

Phil Mickelson got off to a hot start at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, and credits his apparent return to form largely to weight loss in recent months. (Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Phil Mickelson got off to a hot start at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, and credits his apparent return to form largely to weight loss in recent months. (Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

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