LA QUINTA, Calif. (AP) — Blake Adams figured he was already way ahead of the game when he teed off in first round of the Humana Challenge. A high spot on the leaderboard was a bonus.
Returning from hip replacement surgery, the 39-year-old Adams shot an 8-under 64 on Thursday to finish a stroke behind leader Michael Putnam.
“Very, very blessed to be back out here,” Adams said. “It’s been a long road to get back. You never know what you’re going to get when you have total hip replacement.”
Adams had six straight birdies from No. 14 to No. 1 on PGA West’s Jack Nicklaus Private Course. He added three more on Nos. 5-7 and closed with a bogey.
“I had a great day,” Adams said. “I’m going to go out there tomorrow and do my best and if I shoot 64 again, great. If I shoot 74, so be it.”
Adams last played a PGA Tour event in March and had surgery in July. Playing on a major medical extension, he has 16 events to earn $497,044 to keep his tour card.
“I played one-legged since 2007,” said Adams, winless on the PGA Tour.
He left his Swainsboro, Georgia, home Jan. 4 to prepare in the area.
“I practiced at home, but it’s been with country music blaring and lasers and a golf cart,” Adams said. “So, I came out here to beat some balls and do all that.”
He practiced from dusk to dawn and the hip held up.
“I see no reason why my hip will give me any issues from here forward,” Adams said. “When I got here, my mindset was to just put it through the wringer. I was hitting balls at 7:15 and I would stop at dark. I mean, that’s all I did. … Each day, I would wake up and the only thing that hurt was my hands.”
Phil Mickelson also returned to competition — to much greater fanfare.
Mickelson shot a 71 in his first event since the Ryder Cup, leaving him eight strokes behind
“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.”
Mickelson opened at tree-lined La Quinta Country Club. He made a 12-foot birdie putt on the par-3 third, holed out for birdie from a greenside bunker on the par-4 fourth and made a 15-foot birdie putt on the par-5 sixth. After dropping shots on Nos. 12, 14 and 16, Lefty hit a wedge to 2 feet for birdie on the par-4 17th.
“It was the first round in four months and I’ll loosen up,” Mickelson said. “Hopefully, the way I’m playing will show in the score. But today, it just didn’t.”
The 44-year-old Mickelson, the 2002 and 2004 champion, is winless in 27 PGA Tour starts since the 2013 British Open. He has lost weight and gained strength working with trainer Sean Cochran during the long break from competition.
“My body hasn’t felt this good in years,” Mickelson said.
Putnam made nine birdies in an 11-hole stretch in his career-best 63. He birdied Nos. 7, 9 and 10 on the Nicklaus course and ran off six in a row on Nos. 12-17.
“The course is in perfect shape,” Putnam said. “Greens are good. … I made a lot of birdies at the end. Hit a lot of close shots, a lot of 5-, 10-foot putts. I made them all, so I’ve got to be happy about that.”
Mark Wilson, John Peterson, Francesco Molinari and Scott Pinckney matched Adams at 64. Wilson and Peterson played the Nicklaus course, Molinari opened on the Arnold Palmer Private Course and Pinckney was at La Quinta.
The 40-year-old Wilson won the 2012 tournament for the last of his five PGA Tour titles.
“I came in feeling OK, nothing great about the game, but it was ideal today,” Wilson said. “I made some saves when I needed it and capitalized on my good shots.”
Defending champion Patrick Reed had a 65 at La Quinta. He’s coming off a playoff victory over Jimmy Walker two weeks ago in Hawaii in the Tournament of Champions. Last year, Reed shot three 63s to open a seven-shot lead and closed with a 71 for a two-stroke victory.
“I feel like I left a lot out there, but it’s always good to shoot 7 under,” Reed said. “My confidence is as high as it could be and the main thing is just not getting ahead of myself and not really being overconfident where I take too many unnecessary risks.”
DIVOTS: The Nicklaus and Palmer courses each had a scoring average of 70.077. La Quinta was at 70.000. … Humana is in its final year as the title sponsor and the Palmer and Nicklaus layouts also are dropping out after the event.
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