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Thursday, 13 December, 2018

Mickelson can get the better of McIlroy in opening round

Lefty is a four-time winner of the Pebble Beach Pro-Am

Phil Mickelson can get off to a great start at Pebble Beach
1 of 1

Live on Sky Sports Golf from 4pm Thursday

Rory McIlroy has introduced a trip to Pebble Beach into his schedule for the first time and the reason for his decision seems fairly clear.

McIlroy's ambitions are all about the Majors and the fact the California course hosts the US Open next year will have had a huge bearing on his decision to take part alongside his father Gerry this week.

The Northern Irishman will be looking to exorcise the ghosts of his last showing at the course when his fellow countryman Graeme McDowell won the US Open in 2010 - McIlroy hit a 75 and a 77 to miss the cut by three shots.

He tackles Spyglass Hill in his first round and despite his second place in his last outing at the Dubai Desert Classic, it could pay to oppose him against Phil Mickelson in Thursday's opening 18 holes (4.55pm GMT).

While McIlroy is a Pebble Beach novice, this is the 22nd year Lefty has played in the tournament he has won on four occasions and while he will have been disappointed with a 65th last year, he finished second in 2016 and tied for fifth at last week's Phoenix Open.

The eye-catching twoball of the first day features Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth at 4.22pm, but while they are players of comparable talent, they are experiencing contrasting fortunes.

Johnson has been ticking along nicely with a win at the Tournament of Champions and ninth place at Abu Dhabi in 2018, and he will be comfortable playing alongside his father-in-law, ice hockey legend Wayne Gretzky.

Since 2008, Johnson has won the tournament twice and had four other top-five finishes and he looks to be in a better place than the defending champion.

Spieth is struggling with his putting, which is not a good sign for the demands of the greens he will play this week and he missed the cut for the first time in 15 tournaments in Phoenix last week.

Pebble Beach Pro-Am tournament preview

He won the event by four shots last year but has yet to show that he is completely back to form after the illness he suffered from in December and the Texan may not make as fast a start as the world number one.

Former Masters champion Bubba Watson is out early at Monterey Peninsula (4.11pm) and it could pay to support Aaron Baddeley to get the better of him in the opening round.

Watson has claimed a top-ten finish in just one of his last 14 tournaments and his Pebble Beach efforts have been pretty miserable - MC-44-70 in three efforts spanning 12 years.

Baddeley has not been in great form either but there were encouraging signs in the Aussie's 26th-placed finish in Phoenix last week and he has three top-15 finishes at this week's venue since 2011.

His putting ability could be what sees him past the left-hander in the opening round.

P Mickelson to win twoball
2pts 8-5 Betfair
D Johnson to win twoball
2pts 10-11 Betfair
A Baddeley to win twoball
2pts 13-8 Betfair

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While McIlroy is a Pebble Beach novice, this is the 22nd year Lefty has played in the tournament
E.W. Terms
Sky bet