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Mickelson Lights up TPC Scottsdale
Though he matched his course record of 11-under 60 at TPC Scottsdale Thursday, Phil Mickelson missed by inches - literally - of setting an all-time PGA Tour mark of 58 in the opening round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open.
Starting at the 10th tee, the 42-year-old began the first round of the $6.2 million event with four straight birdies and, after two pars, birdied the next three holes to make the turn at 7-under 29. Mickelson then birdied four of the first seven holes on his home half to reach 11-under par.
With two holes - both par-4s - to go, he had a legitimate chance for a 58, a score never posted in a PGA Tour event. Five players had shot the current record of 59, with Paul Goydos (John Deere Classic) and Stuart Appleby (Greenbrier Classic) doing it most recently in 2010. With one more birdie, Mickelson would make it six.
On his 17th hole - the 470-yard eighth, Mickelson hit another brilliant drive and placed his approach to 18 feet. His downhill birdie putt was center-cut but tantalizingly stopped inches short of taking him to 12-under.
"The last 6 feet it was right on glide slope," he said. "It should've been right in middle. I thought there was no way to leave it short, and I guess there was a way to leave it short."
On the final hole - a 464-yarder, which thousands of fans had come to encircle after they vacated their previous viewing spots as word spread of the former Arizona State star's hot round, Mickelson again found the fairway and his second landed on the green 25 feet from the cup.
His final birdie try was especially agonizing as it rolled into the right side of the hole but - miraculously, or cruelly - horseshoed out. The crowd let out a huge moan and Mickelson's longtime caddie, Jim "Bones" Mackay, collapsed on the green in disbelief.
At the end, Mickelson anticlimactically matched the tournament's low round of 60 he'd originally shot in 2005 and which was also carded by Grant Waite in 1996 and Mark Calcavecchia in 2001.
Of that final putt, Mickelson said, at greenside, "Somehow it went low and lipped out. Don't get me wrong, I'm ecstatic to shoot 60 - but you don't get many chances to shoot 59 very often. To have that putt on line I'm kind of mortified that it didn't go in."
As for when he first thought about a magical 59, a confident Mickelson said, "I was thinking 59 back on 10 (his opening hole)."
The four-time major champion was especially dominant on the par-3s, all four of which he birdied, including the raucous 16th (his seventh hole on Thursday), which is inhabited by rowdy crowds. "There's no better hole to make birdie than at 16 at TPC Scottsdale."
He owed his fine play to improvements off the tee. "Today I drove it phenomenal and feel really good about it," he said. "That club made the biggest difference."
The record four-round total in Phoenix Open history - a 28-under 256 - was established by Calcavecchia 12 years ago, but that mark is seriously threatened this week as the conditions in the Arizona desert are perfect for low scoring.
Mickelson's heroics helped him take to a four-shot lead over Ryan Palmer, Brandt Snedeker, Padraig Harrington and Ted Potter, Jr.
Several players were still on the golf course when this story went to press. That group included defending champion, Kyle Stanley, who was 1-over through nine holes.
For updated scoring, visit http://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard.html.