By John Nicholson
The Associated Press
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Phil Mickelson pointed his putter at the cup and started to walk toward the hole, ready to celebrate golf’s magic number.
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. A fraction of inch turned cheers to gasps and cost him a 59 on Thursday in the first round of the Phoenix Open.
“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.”
His caddie, Jim Mackay, fell to his knees and stayed there several seconds.
Playing partners Jason Dufner and Rickie Fowler also watched in disbelief when the 25-foot birdie putt lipped out.
“Unlucky,” Dufner said. “He was walking it in.”
“I thought it was in,” Fowler said. “I was pulling for him.”
Mickelson settled for an 11-under 60 at TPC Scottsdale, 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.”
Finishing his round on the front nine, he birdied the par-3 seventh to reach 11 under.
“Probably the best shot of the day because it’s a tucked little pin over that bunker and I hit a 6-iron to 4 or 5 feet,” Mickelson said. “It was really a good shot from 196 yards.”
He parred the par-4 eighth, leaving an 18-footer a rotation short.
“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.”
On the par-4 ninth, he split the fairway with a 325-yard drive and hit a gap wedge left of the pin, with the ball spinning to an immediate stop.
“Hit two great drives on eight and nine and ended up with a pitching wedge and a gap wedge and didn’t hit the best shots, but gave myself great putts at it,” Mickelson said.
He was thinking about breaking 60 after making the turn in 7-under 29, a mark that tied the tournament record for the back nine.
“(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.”
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