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Mickelson 6 shots off lead after 70

(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

LA QUINTA, Calif. (AP) Phil Mickelson drove so far left on the par-4 ninth that he was in the rough behind a tree all the way across the adjacent first fairway.

While Lefty struggled off the tee Thursday at The American Express in his first round of the year, the drive through two fairways actually wasn't a big miss because he was trying to hit into the first fairway to get a better angle to the back right pin.

“Takes the water out of play and I just have a much better angle," said Mickelson, the 49-year-old Hall of Famer competing for the first time since early November. “I actually pushed it a little bit across and got a little bit unlucky to be behind the tree, but I ended up just chipping a little wedge underneath it and getting it on."

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