(Reuters) - "Phenomenal" was how Phil Mickelson described his first round of golf since recovering from a pair of offseason surgeries after he carded a four-under-par 68 on Thursday at the CareerBuilder Challenge in La Quinta, California.
Mickelson, who had surgeries for a sports hernia on Oct. 19 and again on Dec. 12, mixed five birdies with a lone bogey at La Quinta Country Club to end the opening round of the pro-am event three strokes off the early pace.
Asked to assess his round, the five-time major champion told Golf Channel: "I thought it was phenomenal. I struck it horrible but I scored like out of my mind so I am very happy with it.
"My first round of golf (since his surgeries) was Saturday and I've been able to work out just the last two weeks in the last three months. I've been practising for a week, the game is rusty but the body feels good."
A 42-time winner on the PGA Tour, Mickelson had the first of his two surgeries just three days after he had tied for eighth in the season-opening Safeway Open in Napa, California, then required a second procedure after suffering a setback.
However, he had always planned to mark his first start of 2017 at the CareerBuilder Challenge, a tournament renowned for its low scoring in the California desert.
"There's no better place to learn and to get better than to come out here on these great golf courses and put it (your game) to the test," said Mickelson.
"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."
(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in St. Augustine, Florida; Editing by Steve Keating)