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Mickelson Enjoys 'Fun' Day at Phoenix Open
Though he didn't tie - or break - the all-time PGA Tour record of 59, Phil Mickelson was very pleased with his unerring play with his driver, irons and putter on Thursday.
His 11-birdie 60 at TPC Scottsdale is the story so far of the Waste Management Phoenix Open. As he made his way around the course hordes of fans - at an event known for the biggest crowds on the Tour - flocked to see the former Arizona State All-American, creating a buzz unlike that usually found in the first round of a professional golf tournament, even this one.
Mickelson made all 11 of his birdies in the first 16 holes. One more birdie would have made him the sixth player in history to shoot 59. And two birdies on the final two par-4s would have established a new all-time Tour mark of 58.
But neither score was in the cards. On the eighth hole - his 17th - Mickelson's 18-foot birdie try needed one more roll to find the bottom of the cup. And on the ninth, with a second chance at a 59, his 25-footer horseshoed out, eliciting loud groans from the huge gallery and causing his longtime caddie, Jim "Bones" Mackay, to fall on his knees in disbelief.
As Mackay told reporters later, "On nine he could not have hit a better putt. I saw it was - some serious action going up there, and then I saw out of the corner of my eye kind of moving towards the hole, and I know it's got a good chance, and obviously the golf gods giveth and they taketh away, so there you have it."
Mickelson will give it another try Friday. He's again paired with Rickie Fowler and Jason Dufner, and will start on the first hole at 12:16 p.m. local time.
Later Thursday afternoon, Mickelson met with reporters and discussed his spectacular course-record-tying outing. Here's what the 42-year-old had to say.
MODERATOR: Phil Mickelson, 11 under 60 in round 1 of the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Phil, on behalf of those who watched it, it was pretty amazing. I can only imagine what it was like for the one who created it.
PHIL MICKELSON: It was a fun day, and 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.
Q. You started toward the hole, you thought the putt was in?
PHIL MICKELSON: Six feet to go, it was in the center, 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 and - at that speed to lip out as much as it did is very rare. It's unfortunate, but I mean, I'm ecstatic with the round, but man, you just don't get those opportunities very often, and to see that ball lip out instead of lip-in, like I say, it's crushing.
Q. Bones winds up on all fours on that putt. Were you concerned you were going to have to help him get up?
PHIL MICKELSON: I just love how Bones lives and dies with the good and the bad, you know, and he's just - I couldn't have a better support system. We've had a lot of fun together, and to have a fun day like this to share together was pretty cool.
Q. Have you ever had four 2s on the scorecard?
PHIL MICKELSON: Bones and I were just talking about. In fact, last week at Torrey I had three 2s in the second round and came to the fourth one and I gassed it in the bunker and did not make 2, or just off the edge. We were talking about it on the scores, that very well may be. I'd have to go back and look. I don't know if I've ever birdied all four par 3s. I've had three before, but I don't know if I've ever done four.
Q. On No.11 did you feel any déjà vu back to 2005? Isn't that where you took the penalty?
PHIL MICKELSON: Wow, you have a great memory. Last time I shot 60 here in 2005 when I won, hit it to the right, had to take an unplayable lie and I made a 40 or 50 footer to make par, and today I hit a shot out to six feet and made birdie. Obviously that's the place to be.
Q. When did you start thinking 59 and did you ever think 58?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yes, I thought both of them right after 18, and then - for the whole back nine I'm thinking, let's go. I made that putt on 1, I'm thinking it. I hit a shot on 2 that had action, it went a little long but made a good par. But I birdied 3 and 4, done deal I'm going to get this done. Very disappointed that I wasn't able to birdie the last couple. I hit a great shot on 7 to give myself a really good chance at it, had two wedges in on 8 and 9, hit two great drives on 8 and 9 and ended up with a pitching and a gap wedge and didn't hit the best shot but gave myself great putts at it and thought I had the last one.
Q. You've used words like disappointed and mortified. What does it say about you that you're disappointed in shooting 60?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, 60 is awesome, and 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.
Q. Is it in there, though, that 59? Is it still in there?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, 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.
Q. It looked like you might have it on your 17th hole. It looked like the ball was in the cup. Did you think you made that one, too?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yes, and as you know, that putt is so fast down to that right pin because it's going towards the valley, it's downhill and down-grain. 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.
Q. Was it in the cup?
PHIL MICKELSON: Had it gotten there, had I hit it at good pace so it reached the hole and gone six, eight inches by, it would have been in the middle, but since it died short, it fell an inch to the right. But had I had good pace on it, it would have gone in.
Q. I understand that you were the one that alerted Bo Van Pelt yesterday on 17 tee that he could shoot 59 and you were cheering him on. Did that inspire you in any way?
PHIL MICKELSON: Absolutely. 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. 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. Great.
Q. Can you explain the difference in the feeling between like maybe you have to birdie the last hole on 18 to win the tournament versus really playing the last nine - is it any different than being in contention the last day, going for that iconic score?
PHIL MICKELSON: The difference is that in the tournament on Sunday when you're trying to win, you're worried about what everybody else is doing, you're looking at your lead and so forth, and here there's still three more rounds to go and the last thing I'm worried about is what other guys are doing, I'm only worrying about making that birdie to shoot 59.
Q. Is the sense of pressure any different, though, or do you feel any different?
PHIL MICKELSON: Not really. Not too different, no. I felt totally different on 9 than I did 1 when I was just trying to make birdie and get off to a good start to I had been thinking 59 for a number of holes now, and probably putting more and more pressure on myself, but I knew - I just knew I could do it, and darn it, it just lipped out.
Q. Did you have any others that got away over the years that you look back on?
PHIL MICKELSON: Not like that one, no. That one was - that was heartbreaking.
Q. Bones said you guys never talked about it, though. Is it kind of like a no hitter, you're aware it's going on but don't talk about it?
PHIL MICKELSON: Probably, yeah. I don't mind bringing it up. I'm not like - I don't mind even saying something, but we didn't really bring it up. I'm not superstitious that way. I don't mind talking about it because I was sure thinking it.
MODERATOR: If we could just take you through all 18, starting with the 10th.
PHIL MICKELSON: I hit a good drive on 10 and hit a sand wedge to five, six feet that almost went in and it was backing up and I made that for birdie. I hit 3 wood on 11 and pulled it away from the water and just into the desert, but I had a shot and hit a good 8 iron to about six feet over one of the trees with a little draw. And then I hit a great 6 iron on 12 to a foot, just worked a little fade back into that pin.
On 13, I hit the drive exactly where I wanted to, which I usually aim over the desert, and I figured, well, there's no way I'm going to hit it there, so I'm either going to miss a little right or a little left and it works out great, and this time it went right where I was trying to hit it. So go figure, it sticks in the desert, and I had to kind of chip out with a 7 iron and advance it down there. I hit a 9 iron to a foot and made birdie there. I hit a good drive on 14 and ended up making par after hitting a 6 iron to the right - sorry, 7 iron to the right, 50 feet.
Hit a good drive on 15 and ended up 4 wood just short of the green, chipped up to five feet and missed it. That was the one putt that I hit poorly. I limped it up to the hole. You can't putt like that. You've got to putt aggressively, and it almost spurred me on to putt a little more aggressive after just seeing that ball just get to the front edge. That's just not how you putt, or putt well.
I made a great putt on 16 after a 9 iron to 18 feet or so, and it had a lot of break and I just got it dialed in with the right speed and it went in. And I'll tell you, this is the biggest difference for me right here with 17: You've heard me talk about how I drove the ball. I drove the ball great today, put a new driver in my bag, I got it Tuesday, I couldn't believe how easy it was to hit, I drove it great. But on 17, this is a great example, you've seen me over the years miss it left, and there's water left, and I know there's water left because I've been in it so many times, and I aimed right at the middle of the green, I trusted the club and went right at the middle of the green, on the middle of the green 50 feet from the hole, two putted for birdie, and to me that's the biggest thing. We've got so if this driver does what it did for me today, it could alter my game significantly. The misses were minuscule, it went long and straight, and I'm really excited about the difference here. Hit a good tee shot on 18 with a 3 wood and hit a pitching wedge to about 18 feet or 20 feet or so and made that.
1st hole, I hit a 3 wood and I missed it a little bit left and hit a gap wedge to 18 feet. I had a good lie, had a good angle, it was no problem where I was at, I was just in the left rough and hit it to 18 feet and made a putt. Parred 2 after a tee shot in the right rough, went over the green, chipped by a little bit, about 15 feet and made that. That was a good par save. Made birdie on 3 after a good drive, and I go into that bunker on the left, and it just caught the lip. I mean, if it were two yards right it would have been all right, but it went in, I laid up with a 7 iron down there to 60 yards. For me the closer I get to the green, the better off I am. So I don't lay back to a full shot, I try to get it down there as far as I can.
I got lucky on this pitch shot, and I'll tell you why: I had a really good feeling. 60 is the number that I sit there and practice over and over and over again in my yard. I try to hit it to a towel, and 60 is my number, so I knew I was going to hit a good shot there. This ball was right on the pin, and if it hits the pin, it's going to spin back off the green. It lands a foot short, and it landed on the edge of a divot and kicked it left just enough to miss the pin as it went by, and it spun back down a foot left of the hole and I ended up tapping in for birdie, so I got lucky there on the bounce. Hit a good 9 iron on 4 just short, 15 feet, and made the putt.
Par 5 after another good drive, poor iron shot 40 feet to the right, actually lipped that putt out. Not like 9, but it caught lip. Blocked my drive a little bit on 6 but in grass, in the left rough, hit a sand wedge just over the green, two putted, just la di dah, nothing. And then 7 was probably the best shot of the day because it's a tucked little pin over that bunker and I hit a 6 iron to four or five feet. It was really a good shot from 196 yards and made the putt for birdie. 8 and 9, I hit two great drives right down the middle of the fairway. I had a pitching wedge on 8, I hit it 20 feet left and I had a gap wedge on 9, I hit it 20 feet left, had two good looks at it and neither one went in, but still a really fun day.
Q. What's the difference in the driver you put in your bag on Tuesday?
PHIL MICKELSON: Here's the difference: I spin the ball a lot with my irons, and when I go to a driver that has enough loft, it spins too much for me so I have to de-loft it, which you see me create this tilt in my golf swing to get the ball up in the air. This driver spins so low that I can have more loft on the club, making it easier to hit. This has got to be good for every player I would think, but it sure as heck is good for me. And by having it be a low spin driver with enough loft, and because it's that RAZR Fit Xtreme where you can fit it, I was able to get it dialed in to where it goes straight. But I'm able to make the same golf swing as my irons so you'll see me extend down the target line, you won't see this kind of tilt because it's not enough loft to get up and it's not low enough spin to not float, and it has been - it really could be a revolutionary club for me. Possibly all golfers but certainly for my game, because if I drive it like this and feel as easy as I do over the driver, my iron - the strength of my game is my iron play, so if I can drive it like I did and with the ease with which I did and the misses be where they were, then this could be a really big deal for me.
MODERATOR: Phil, we appreciate your time, as always, and best of luck going forward.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.