Phil Mickelson pointed his putter at the cup on his 18th hole and started to walk toward it, 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 came out. A fraction of an inch turned cheers to gasps and cost him a 59 on Thursday in the first round of the Phoenix Open in Scottsdale, Ariz.
“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 after the 25-footer lipped out and stayed there several seconds.
“He could not have hit a better putt,” Mackay said.
Finishing on the ninth hole at TPC Scottsdale, Mickelson settled for an 11-under 60, matching the event 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 … between 59 and 60.”
Seeking his third victory in the event, Mickelson had a four-stroke lead over Ryan Palmer, Brandt Snedeker, Padraig Harrington, Ted Potter Jr. and Jeff Maggert when play was suspended because of darkness.
Vijay Singh withdrew from the Phoenix Open, a day after saying he used deer-antler spray and other products sold by Sports With Alternatives to Steroids (S.W.A.T.S.) and was “absolutely shocked” that it may contain a banned substance.
Singh cited a back injury in pulling out before the first round.
Meanwhile, Bob Charles, the 1963 British Open winner, said in New Zealand on Thursday he also used and promoted deer-antler spray for more than 20 years, and was surprised to learn it contained a banned substance. Charles was a spokesman for the deer-antler product and used it daily over two decades.
SOUTH AFRICAN TOPS IN DUBAI
Richard Sterne nearly broke the course record at the Dubai Desert Classic, shooting 10-under 62 in the first round to finish one shot ahead of Stephen Gallacher.
The 165th-ranked South African was on pace to break the course record of 61 set by Ernie Els in 1994 but couldn’t convert late birdie chances.