NAPA, Calif. (AP) – Brandt Snedeker birdied the final two holes for a 7-under 65 and a three-stroke lead over Phil Mickelson and two others Friday in the PGA Tour’s season-opening Safeway Open.
Playing alongside Hall of Famer Fred Couples, Snedeker had eight birdies and a bogey on the North Course at Silverado Resort and Spa. The leader won the Wyndham Championship in August, opening with a 59 en route to his ninth PGA Tour title.
“I played really solid golf all the way around,” Snedeker said. “I only played two bad shots all day. My speed has been great for two days. These green can get away from you if you’re not paying attention.”
Snedeker had a 13-under 131 total.
Mickelson followed his opening 65 with a 69 to join Michael Thompson (65) and Ryan Moore (67) at 10 under.
“I’m cautiously optimistic,” Mickelson said. “It’s certainly turning from pessimistic because I didn’t think that I was going to be here on the weekend and the next thing you know I’m up on top of the leaderboard.”
A week after going 0-2 in United States’ Ryder Cup loss to Europe in France, the 48-year-old Mickelson bogeyed three of his first eight holes, and rallied with four birdies on his second nine.
“I shot 4 under to kind of salvage the round,” Mickelson. “I’m surprised. I’m hitting a lot of good shots. I didn’t expect that. What I am doing well is putting, like I can putt.”
Moore won the last of his five PGA Tour titles in 2016.
“I feel like the seasons I’ve played really well I’ve kind of come out with a good start here,” Moore said. “I need a good start. I need something to kind of solidify my schedule for next year or else you’re just kind of floating around in between.”
Thompson’s lone PGA Tour victory came in the 2013 Honda Classic.
First-round leader Sepp Straka followed his opening 63 with a 72 to drop into a tie for fifth at 9 under with Kevin Tway (67) and Sungjae Im (69).
“I really didn’t hit the ball very well today,” Straka said. “Yesterday I wasn’t flawless. I kept the ball in the right spots. I didn’t do that today. I short-sided myself a lot.”
Ricky Barnes matched the course record with a 61 to get to 8 under.
The 59-year-old Couples matched Snedeker with a 65 to reach 7 under. Playing on a sponsor exemption, he plans to make the tournament his last PGA Tour event other than the Masters.
Mark Mulder, the former major league pitcher playing in his first PGA Tour event, missed the cut with round of 75 and 74.
Copyright 2018 The Associated Press.