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Phil Mickelson sees maroon and gold all over TPC Scottsdale course

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SCOTTSDALE – The Waste Management Phoenix Open is known for its eco-friendly, green color scheme but maroon and gold dominated the galleries the first two rounds. Arizona State alumnus Phil Mickelson is back in town.

Mickelson graduated from Arizona State in 1992 and nearly 25 years later “Lefty” still feels the local support.

“I love playing this event,” Mickelson said. “I love the way the community supports this tournament, the way that they support the Sun Devils.”

Shortly after his 7:57 a.m. tee time Thursday, fans wearing Sparky emblems and pitchforks traversed TPC Scottsdale alongside Mickelson and playing partners Hunter Mahan and Rickie Fowler.

Mickelson started three-over par through his first six holes but finished the round on a tear with five birdies to conclude the day at two-under par.

“I come out and I just made a bunch of dumb mistakes and I’m three-over,” Mickelson said. “But I made a birdie on 17 and followed it with one on 18 and that really turned the round around and I ended up playing the front nine really solid.”

Fans young and old flashed the Sun Devils’ trademark pitchfork hand signal and shouted “Go Devils” throughout he three-time Waste Management Phoenix Open champions round.

Jaden Baker, 11, wore an ASU baseball cap and a maroon shirt and said his first trip to the tournament was a memorable one because of the opportunity to watch his favorite golfer.

“He went to ASU, he comes here and I just like him,” Baker said. “He’s always been my favorite and my family, we’ve always grown up liking him.”

Baker had fun keeping up with a pack of rabid fans but other Mickelson supporters felt overwhelmed by the number of people trying to keep pace.

“We’ve been coming the last three years and for a Thursday, this is the most crowded I’ve ever seen it,” Mickelson fan Rachelle Wooley said.

Mickelson’s slow start didn’t detract from the size of his gallery. Instead, late-arriving fans caught up with his group and contributed to the considerable roar following birdies on his last two holes.

“I had to give them (fans) something to get energized about,” Mickelson said.

While Mickelson entertained the largest draw of Sun Devil enthusiasts, five different tournament participants have called Arizona State home at one point in their careers, including amateur and Sun Devil junior Jon Rahm.

Rahm received a sponsorship exemption from The Thunderbirds and teed off minutes after Mickelson finished his round.

In a post-round interview, Mickelson touted Rahm’s inclusion in the tournament as yet another example of the support the local community offers the maroon and gold.

“This year the Thunderbirds gave an exemption to Jon Rahm, the No. 3 amateur in the world,and I just think the community, the Thunderbirds and the fans that come out and support this tournament are wonderful and for me to be apart of that community, part of this tournament for 25 years has been great,” Mickelson said.