Putnam leads Humana Challenge

Michael Putnam took a one-shot lead in the PGA Tour’s Humana Challenge on Thursday after shooting a nine-under 63 in the first round.

The American fired one bogey and ten birdies, including a run of six consecutive birdies between the 12th and 17th holes, on the PGA West’s Jack Nicklaus Private Course in California.

Putnam told AP that he was pleased with his opening round.

“The course is in perfect shape. Greens are good. … I made a lot of birdies at the end,” he said.

“Hit a lot of close shots, a lot of 5-, 10-foot putts. I made them all, so I got to be happy about that.”

Italian Francesco Molinari and Americans Mark Wilson, Blake Adams, John Peterson and Scott Pinckney all share second place, trailing Putnam by a single shot.

Americans Patrick Reed, Matt Kuchar, Jason Kokrak and Steve Wheatcroft, are tied for seventh place on seven-under after the first round.

Phil Mickelson, making his return to competition after a four hiatus, shot a one-under 71 and trails Putnam by eight shots. Mickelson last played competitively at the Ryder Cup last year.

“Even though this score is the worst I’ve had in a long time, in months, I’m excited about my game and getting back out tomorrow,” Mickelson said.

“I can’t wait to get started again, because I just feel like I played a little tight today, kind of steered it a little bit.”

“It was the first round in four months and I’ll loosen up. Hopefully, the way I’m playing will show in the score. But today, it just didn’t.”

The 44-year-old, who won the Humana Challenge in 2002 and 2004, used his time away from the game to improve his physical strength. He adds that his “body hasn’t felt this good in years”.