SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. Phil Mickelson missed out on a 59 by a fraction of an inch Thursday in the first round of the Phoenix Open.
The first round was suspended with players still on the course due to darkness.
Mickelson had a chance to become the sixth player in PGA Tour history to break 60 with a 25-foot birdie attempt on his last hole, the par-4 ninth at TPC Scottsdale. The putt looked good all the way, and Mickelson pointed his putter at the cup as he prepared to celebrate.
Right at the end, though, the ball caught the right edge of the cup, curled 180 degrees to the other side of the hole and stayed out.
“Six feet to go, it was in the center,” Mickelson said. “Three feet to go, it was in the center. A foot to go, it was in the center, and even as it's approaching the hole, I couldn't envision which side of the hole it could possibly miss on, and it ended up somehow just dying off at the end, catching the lip. At that speed, to lip out as much as it did is very rare.
“I'm excited to shoot 60, but to see that last putt lip out the way it did and not go in, it's crushing because you don't get that chance very often to shoot 59.”
His caddie, Jim Mackay, fell to his knees and stayed there several seconds.
“He could not have hit a better putt,” Mackay said.
Playing partners Jason Dufner and Rickie Fowler thought it was going in, too.
“Unlucky. He was walking it in,” Dufner said.
“I thought it was in,” Fowler said. “I was pulling for him, trying to stay out of his way.”
Mickelson settled for an 11-under 60, matching the tournament record he already shared with Grant Waite and Mark Calcavecchia.
“Well, 60 is awesome,” Mickelson said. “Last time I shot 60 here in `05, I birdied like the last three or four holes just to do that, and I was ecstatic, and I'm ecstatic to shoot 60. But there's a big difference between 60 and 59. Not that big between 60 and 61, there really isn't. But there's a big barrier, a Berlin Wall barrier, between 59 and 60.
“I shot it in the PGA Grand Slam of Golf. I shot 58 in a practice round. But to do it in a tournament would have been historic for me, something I'd always remember, and I'll always remember that putt on the last hole probably, too.”
He also parred the par-4 eighth – leaving an 18-footer a rotation short – after reaching 11 under with a 7-foot birdie putt on the par-3 seventh.
“That putt is so fast down to that right pin because it's going toward the valley, it's downhill and down grain,” Mickelson said. “I thought, I can't leave it short, so I just got it right on line and it was tracking and it pulled up short.”
He was thinking about breaking 60 all through his final holes.
“[When] I birdied three and four, ‘Done deal I'm going to get this done,’ ” Mickelson said. “Very disappointed that I wasn't able to birdie the last couple. … I just knew I could do it, and darn it, it just lipped out.”
Mackay didn't say a word about a 59, treating it like a baseball pitcher with a no-hitter.
“I'm handing him the putter and just totally getting away from him,” Mackay said. “He's comfortable, he likes that kind of stage, and he's not scared.”
In perfect conditions on the course softened by weekend rain, Mickelson birdied the first four holes and reached 8 under with another four-birdie run capped by a 20-footer on the par-4 first – his 10th hole of the round. He added birdies on par-5 third and par-3 fourth.
The former Arizona State star struggled in his first two events this year and also caused a sensation by saying new federal and state tax rates kept him from being part of the San Diego Padres' ownership group and might cause him to move away from California. He tied for 51st last week at Torrey Pines in his hometown event after opening the season with a tie for 37th in La Quinta.
Five players have shot 59 in official PGA Tour events. Al Geiberger did it in the 1977 Memphis Classic, Chip Beck in the 1991 Las Vegas Invitational, David Duval in the 1999 Bob Hope Invitational, Paul Goydos in the 2010 John Deere Classic and Stuart Appleby in the 2010 Greenbrier Classic. Japan's Ryo Ishikawa has the lowest round on a major tour, shooting a 12-under 58 to win the 2010 Crowns on the Japan Tour.
Bo Van Pelt had a 59 in the pro-am Wednesday at TPC Scottsdale, a round that Mickelson watched closely from the group behind.
“He hit a shot on 17, he was 9 under at the time, and he hit a drive that hit the pin and ended up a foot,” Mickelson said. “It should have gone in. And I kind of got into him, I said, `Look, I don't care when it is, get a 3, make a 3 on the last hole because you don't get a chance to shoot 59.’ Here I am the next day making a 4.”
Mickelson had a four-stroke lead over Ryan Palmer, Brandt Snedeker, Padraig Harrington and Ted Potter Jr. with half the players still on the course.
Fowler and Dufner shot 68.
Vijay Singh withdrew before the round, a day after saying he used deer-antler spray and was “absolutely shocked” that it may contain a banned substance.
The 49-year-old Fijian cited a back injury. He faces possible sanctions from the tour.
Singh first revealed he used the spray in an interview with Sports Illustrated. The magazine said Singh paid one of the owners of Sports With Alternatives To Steroids $9,000 last November for the spray, hologram chips and other products. The company says its deer-antler substance contains a banned performance-enhancer connected to human growth hormone.
The start of play was delayed an hour because of frost.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates Richard Sterne nearly broke the course record at the Dubai Desert Classic on Thursday, shooting 10-under 62 in the first round to finish one shot ahead of Stephen Gallacher.
The 165th-ranked South African, who has struggled in recent years with back problems, started with three birdies on his first four holes. Sterne was on pace to break the course record of 61 set by Ernie Els in 1994, but couldn't convert late birdie chances.
“It's as good a start as I could have hoped for,” said Sterne, whose back trouble limited him to a handful of tournaments in 2010 and 2011.
Gallacher also had a strong start with three birdies and an eagle on the front nine en route to his 63. He had two straight bogeys on the back before an eagle and three birdies on the final four holes to pull into contention.
Scott Jamieson, Chris Doak and Tommy Fleetwood shot 65s. Paul Casey was another stroke back, while Lee Westwood shot a 67, five behind the leader. Sergio Garcia, who finished second last week in Qatar, shot a 68.
Westwood said he “really enjoyed” the first round. The Englishman has been through a lot of changes in the offseason – moving his family to the United States, and adding some new clubs to his bag. But unlike top-ranked Rory McIlroy, who missed the cut in Abu Dhabi with his new Nike clubs, Westwood didn't seem to miss a beat in his season-opening tournament.
“Very sharp, made some nice putts, and I played better today than I finished off the last few tournaments so really pleased,” Westwood said. “It was steady. Still not made any bogeys this year, so it's good … It didn't feel like the first round of the year.”
Westwood will spend the evening at the nearby Meydan Racecourse cheering on Rerouted, a 5-year-old horse he co-owns with his manager, which is running in the Dubai Casthouse Trophy.
Two-time major winner Mark O'Meara also shot 67, playing the kind of golf that earned him the 2004 Dubai title.
“I realize that I can't hit the ball like the kids can, but yet I'm still driving it a reasonable distance and around here, it's so important to hit the fairway, and I drove the ball pretty well today,” said O'Meara, who won in Dubai when he was 47. “I kept the ball in play most all day long and that enabled me to be a little more aggressive and hit more greens.
“Listen, when I can hit the ball like that and give myself opportunities, I look forward to getting back out there tomorrow.”