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First-round score means Mickelson destined to win Pebble Beach Pro-Am

| 07.02.2014

Only Mark O’Meara has more victories in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am on his resume than Phil Mickelson and the left-hander should be backed to secure a record-equalling fifth title, based on his first-round start in California this year.

Mickelson was five-under through 15 holes of his first round before play was suspended because of the darkness, with Andrew Loupe the clubhouse leader after an eight-under-par 63.

It is a big leap of progress for rookie Loupe, who has failed to make the cut in all five of PGA Tour starts this season before this event, but it is Mickelson that must be regarded as the player to beat.

Despite being a four-time winner of this event, Mickelson is not typically the strongest starter, as he has only shot 66 or better in the first-round three times and all of these have resulted in victory.

Mickelson is 7/1 to win the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and given that he will have three weeks off after this tournament before returning for the Honda Classic at the end of the month, he may be more willing to play through the back injury that impacted him in his last start in the Waste Management Phoenix Open.

The world number four has been fairly quiet in the early stages of the 2014 PGA Tour season, only breaking 70 once in his first 14 rounds of the campaign.

However, he is no stranger to suddenly stringing together four strong rounds after a quiet spell and it was only really his iron play that let him down in Phoenix.

Much will now hinge on how well Mickelson plays the other courses at Pebble Beach, with the first three rounds of this tournament played on different layouts.

He has started on the Monterey Peninsula course this time, with Spyglass Hill typically proving the most challenging.

Jordan Spieth and Rory Sabbatini have opened with the best rounds at five-under of those to have played Spyglass Hill first and can be backed at 15/2 and 33/1 to win the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.