KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 24, 2013 (AFP) - British Open winner Phil Mickelson admitted to some of his worst recent form after finishing the first round of the US$7 million (S$8.7 million) CIMB Classic in Malaysia eight strokes adrift on Thursday.
But Major winner Keegan Bradley managed a seven-under 65 to stay just two strokes behind surprise leader Ryan Moore, with Spaniard Sergio Garcia a further stroke behind.
World No.3 Mickelson, who had a large crowd following his every shot, is tied for 21st at one-under 71, but vowed to come back strongly.
"I can't remember hitting it this bad in a long time," he lamented. "The path of the club is too inside, then it's vertical, the head's moving, my legs are loose. It's terrible - but I'm putting okay.
"The lead right now is irrelevant. It's far off, but that's the last thing on my mind. I'm going to hit some balls and try and fix my swing," added the American, who had five birdies against two double bogeys on the second and ninth holes.
His countryman Bradley, who briefly led after finishing on seven-under, credited a recent break with helping him to stay focused in hot and humid conditions.
"I put the clubs away for a few days, but I got a lot of work to do this year. I've set a lot of goals that I want to accomplish," said the 27-year-old.
Garcia is third on six-under 66, ahead of five rivals - Rory Sabbatini of South Africa, Americans Boo Weekly, Chris Kirk and Chris Stroud, and Asia's best finisher of the day, Kiradech Aphibarnrat (Thailand), who were all tied on fourth on minus-5.
"It's quite narrow. Not the longest, but you have to drive the ball well," the Spaniard said of the course after hitting 17 out of 18 greens in regulation.
"I would have loved to make a couple more putts, but I hit some good putts that unfortunately didn't go in. But the greens are not very easy to read."
American Moore was the surprise package for day one after firing a 63 at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club.
Moore, who has two PGA Tour titles under his belt, started badly with a bogey at the opening hole, but bounced back strongly with 10 birdies.
Asked about his strategy, he said: "You got to put it in the fairway. The fairways are very small and I started doing that really well.
"This is probably the first time in my career I birdied every par-3, and had four twos on my card."
This is the first time the CIMB Classic is offering FedExCup points, with 500 on offer while the winner also gains a two-year PGA Tour exemption.