Skip to main content
Open this photo in gallery:

Rafa Cabrera Bello hits his tee shot on the 18th hole during the first round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational golf tournament at Bay Hill Club & Lodge.Reinhold Matay/USA TODAY Sports via Reuters

Rafa Cabrera Bello had a Bay Hill debut to remember with a seven-under 65 for a two-shot lead while playing with Arnold Palmer’s grandson.

The entertainment, as usual, came from Phil Mickelson.

Back at the Arnold Palmer Invitational for the first time in six years, Mickelson capped off a wild round by nearly holing his approach from the 18th fairway for his seventh birdie on a round that will be remembered more for the shot Lefty tried to play right-handed .

“It didn’t turn out the best,” Mickelson said after rallying for a 68.

Thanks to the new Rules of Golf, it could have been worse.

Mickelson, who won at Bay Hill in 1997, was cruising along until his tee shot on the 10th hole went well to the left and settled under a mesh fence that was out-of-bounds, with just enough of the ball inside the stakes that he could try to play it.

Of course, he did.

Standing on the other side of the fence, his best play was to invert a 9-iron and try to smash it right-handed through the mesh netting.

“I was able to get clear — I thought — clean contact on it from a right-handed shot perspective,” he said. “I thought I hit it pretty good.”

He looked up toward the green and was surprised to see the ball a few feet in front of him. By hitting the mesh fence, it rolled up and snagged the ball, which eventually spit out of the fence and this time landed out-of-bounds.

The old rule would have meant hitting his next shot from the same spot under the fence. The new rule for a stroke-and-distance penalty allowed him to move it one club’s-length away. Mickelson was able to get that one to the front of the green, and he two-putted from nine metres to salvage a double bogey.

“That definitely helped,” Mickelson said. “I didn’t want to play that shot again.”

He didn’t think the first shot was all that difficult, but he at least rallied with three birdies that left him three shots out of the lead.

Keegan Bradley played bogey-free for a 67 in the morning, as did Cabrera Bello. Mickelson was in the group at 68 along with Graeme McDowell, Bubba Watson, Patrick Rodgers and Billy Horschel.

British Open-champion Francesco Molinari made one of two aces on the day — the other belonged to D.A. Points — and was among those at 69.

Defending-champion Rory McIlroy opened with a 72.

Canadians Roger Sloan and Adam Hadwin were five shots off the lead in a tie for 14th place while Corey Conners was six shots back.

Interact with The Globe