SCOTTSDALE, Az. — 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 Waste Management 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.
“He could not have hit a better putt,” Mackay said.
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, the 42-year-old former Arizona State star 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.”
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.
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 had 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.
Leaderboard: Phil Mickelson, 60 (-11); Ryan Palmer, 64 (-7); Brandt Snedeker, 64 (-7); Padraig Harrington, 64 (-7); Ted Potter Jr. , 64 (-7); Jeff Maggert, 64 (-7).
– Making his 24th start at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, Mickelson opened on Thursday with an 11-under 60, equaling both his career-low round on the PGA Tour and the lowest score in Waste Management Phoenix Open history (his own second-round 60 en route to winning in 2005, Mark Calcavecchia/2001, Grant Waite/1996).
– Mickelson’s five best scores on the PGA Tour are: 60 (11-under) – 2013 Waste Management Phoenix Open (first round, TBD); 60 (11-under) – 2005 Waste Management Phoenix Open (second round, went on to win); 61 (9-under) – 2001 Travelers Championship (third round, went on to win); 62 (10-under) – 2005 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am (first round, went on to win); 62 (9-under) – 2009 Northern Trust Open (third round, went on to win)
– Mickelson appeared poised for a 59 until his 25’ 5” birdie putt on his final hole (No. 9) horseshoed around the hole, leading to the 27th 60 in PGA Tour history (25 players).
– Mickelson joins Zach Johnson as the only players in PGA Tour history with multiple rounds of 60 or better, with Mickelson the only to perform the feat on the same course: Mickelson – 2005 Waste Management Phoenix Open (29-31—60; R2); Johnson – 2007 Tour Championship by Coca-Cola (31-29—60; R3); Johnson – 2009 Valero Texas Open (30-30—60; R3); Mickelson – 2013 Waste Management Phoenix Open (31-29—60; R1)
– The previous-lowest opening-round score at the Waste Management Phoenix Open was 62, set by Steve Jones (1997), J.C. Snead (1973/Arizona CC), Harrison Frazar (2003) and Camilo Villegas (2010).
– Mickelson has carded three 2s on his scorecard 25 times during his career, but Thursday marked the first time he has posted four. He birdied all four par-3s, including Nos. 4, 7, 12 and 16.
– Mickelson began his round with four consecutive birdies on Nos. 10-13, marking his best beginning in 24 starts at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. His previous-best start was three birdies out of the gate in 1995 (went on to finish T35).
– Mickelson carded a 7-under 29 on his opening nine holes on Thursday (the back nine at TPC Scottsdale after beginning the day on No. 10). It equals the low back-nine score at TPC Scottsdale: Rickie Fowler/2011/2nd round, J.J. Henry/2006/2nd round, Scott Verplank/1998/2nd round, Grant Waite/1996/fourth round.
– Mickelson (1996, 2005) is one of 11 players with two wins at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. He is hoping to join three-time winners Mark Calcavecchia, Gene Littler and Arnold Palmer.
– Should his four-shot lead hold up, Mickelson will own the largest 18-hole lead at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. The current record is three strokes: Paul Runyan (1940/Phoenix CC/finished 9th), Arnold Palmer (1962/Phoenix CC/won) and Davis Love III (1988/TPC Scottsdale/finished 4th).
– Ryan Palmer opened with a 7-under 64, one year after sharing the opening-round lead with Jason Dufner with the same score at the Waste Management Phoenix Open.
– Making his first-career start at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, three-time Major Championship winner Padraig Harrington opened with a 7-under 64.
– 2012 FedExCup champion Brandt Snedeker, fresh off of a T2 at last week’s Farmers Insurance Open, opened Thursday with a 7-under 64. He owns two top-10 finishes in seven previous starts here (T8-2011, T9-2008).
– Other players with 7-under 64s on Thursday were 2012 Greenbrier Classic champion Ted Potter Jr. and three-time TOUR winner Jeff Maggert (the oldest player in the field).
– Defending champion Kyle Stanley currently stands at 2-under through 16 holes. The last player to successfully defend his title at the Waste Management Phoenix Open was Johnny Miller (1974-75).
– There are seven past tournament champions in the field this week: Phil Mickelson (60), Hunter Mahan (67), Aaron Baddeley (69), Jesper Parnevik (70), J.B. Holmes (71), Mark Wilson (71) and Kyle Stanley (2-under thru 16 holes).