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Mickelson returns strong at CareerBuilder

LA QUINTA, Calif. — Phil Mickelson returned from a long layoff with a big mid-round run. PGA West's TPC Stadium Course came back strong, too, Thursday in the CareerBuilder Challenge.

The 45-year-old Mickelson opened with a 4-under 68 at La Quinta Country Club in his first start since the Presidents Cup in October, playing a seven-hole stretch in 6 under.

"I've had a lot of time off," Mickelson said. "It was fun to get back into the swing of it. We had a beautiful day here. Weather's spectacular. Golf course was great. I had a good solid round."

Lefty holed out for eagle on the par-4 eighth with a shot that spun back 15 feet, chipped in on the next hole for a front-nine 31 and added another birdie on 11. He three-putted for par on the par-5 13th and made two late bogeys to fall four strokes behind leaders Jason Dufner, Jerry Kelly, Jeff Overton and Anirban Lahiri.

The round was Mickelson's first since splitting with swing coach Butch Harmon to work with Andrew Getson. The 2002 and 2004 champion is winless since the 2013 British Open.

"I felt good with my game," Mickelson said. "I didn't feel like I was fighting it. I was able to kind of let it go. I didn't hit a lot of shots really close, I just hit it kind of OK. Didn't putt great. But I had a couple shots that I holed out."

The Stadium Course had a stroke average of 71.825 in perfect scoring conditions in the Pete Dye-designed layout's first round in the event since it was dropped from the rotation after its 1987 debut. The course finally got another chance this year out of necessity when PGA West's Palmer and Nicklaus private layouts dropped out.

Dufner and Overton opened on PGA West's Nicklaus Tournament Course. Kelly and Lahiri played at La Quinta, the lone holdover. La Quinta had a stroke average of 69.596, and the Nicklaus Tournament Course was at 69.424.

CHAMPIONS: At Kaupulehu-Kona, Hawaii, Joe Durant shot a 7-under 65 to take a one-stroke lead in the PGA Tour Champions' season-opening Mitsubishi Electric Championship.

The 51-year-old Durant had nine birdies and two bogeys at Hualalai Golf Course. He teamed with Billy Andrade last year to win the Legends of Golf for his first title on the 50-and-over tour.

Defending champion Miguel Angel Jimenez, Davis Love III and Tom Pernice Jr. were a stroke back in the event for major champions from the last five years, tournament winners in the last two seasons and sponsor invitees.

Love played in the PGA Tour's Hawaii events the last two weeks.

ABU DHABI: At Abu dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Rory McIlroy began 2016 with a masterful display of driving to set up a 6-under 66 at the Abu Dhabi Championship, upstaging top-ranked playing partner Jordan Spieth in the first round.

McIlroy was one stroke behind early leader Henrik Stenson (65) after rolling in eight birdies in his first appearance after two months off, during which he underwent laser eye surgery.

Spieth scrambled well to shoot a 68 but was put in the shade by McIlroy on a warm, wind-free morning. Stenson birdied five of his last eight holes in his first round after keyhole surgery on his right knee in December.