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Mickelson 2 shots off lead at Safeway

The Associated Press NAPA, Calif. (AP) — Phil Mickelson had six straight birdies and shot a 7-under 65 on Thursday to pull within two strokes of leader Sepp Straka in the PGA Tour’s season-opening Safeway Open.

Coming off a winless performance in the U.S. Ryder Cup loss to Europe, the 48-year-old Mickelson birdied Nos. 9-14 and closed with four straight pars on the North Course at Silverado Resort and Spa.

I’ve been putting well, like I can putt,” Mickelson said. “But I was surprised at some of the shots I’ve hit. Honestly, I hit it just terrible and today was kind of an anomaly. Don’t let the good round fool you. I’m not at all at my best. A few things clicked and it was fun.”

He was 0-2 in France at the Ryder Cup.

“I had two terrible weeks at BMW and the Tour Championship,” Mickelson said. “But I’ve become a great putter week in and week out with a few bad weeks as opposed to in the past I’ve kind of been an average putter with a few spikes. I’m back to putting well again and rolling it in the way I did all last year.”

Straka birdied the final three holes for a 63. The Austrian played alongside Mark Mulder, the former major league pitcher who opened with a 75.

“I really wasn’t expecting that right out of the gates,” Straka said. “But I had a good game plan and I just tried to do it shot by shot. I really didn’t do a lot of special things. My putter was really hot, and I putted the ball really well. Other than that, you know, I just took advantage of my chances.”

Chase Wright had a 64, playing the last three holes in 4 under with an eagle on the par-5 16th and two birdies. He’s playing in his second career PGA Tour event after earning a card in the Web.com Tour Finals.

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