Scottsdale, AZ (Sports Network) - Phil Mickelson came within a horse-shoedputt of recording the sixth 59 in PGA Tour history on Thursday at the WasteManagement Phoenix Open.
Mickelson entered the last hole at TPC Scottsdale's Stadium Course needing abirdie to make history, but when his 26-foot putt lipped around the cup hesettled for an 11-under 60 and a 4-stroke lead.
"You don't have chances to shoot 59 often," said Mickelson. "To have that putton line I'm kind of mortified that it didn't go in."
Although the birdie chance didn't fall, Mickelson still managed to match hiscareer-low round and tie the course record, which he equaled in 2005 when hewon this tournament for the second time.
World No. 7 Brandt Snedeker, Padraig Harrington, Ryan Palmer, Ted Potter Jr.and Jeff Maggert all carded a 7-under 64 before the opening round wassuspended on account of darkness. Play was delayed an hour at the start due tofrost.
Nick Watney and Humana Challenge winner Brian Gay highlight a group of 11knotted in seventh place at minus-6. Of the 11, only John Mallinger and JohnRollins have yet to finish their rounds.
Vijay Singh, a two-time winner at this event, withdrew prior to the start ofthe first round. The 49-year-old Fijian has been the subject of scrutiny sincehe admitted to using deer antler spray, a product that includes a bannedsubstance under the PGA Tour's Anti-Doping Policy. He cited a back injury asthe reason for this withdrawal.
Mickelson, himself involved in a minor controversy last week over his commentsabout state and federal tax laws, opened on the 10th tee Thursday and puthimself in spectacular position with a sparkling 29 on his outward nine. Thelefty birdied his first four holes before recording pars on Nos. 14 and 15.
He bounced back with another birdie on the 16th, to the delight of the massesin the grandstands, and then turned the trick again on each of his next threeholes.
That run left Mickelson 8-under through 10, but he wasn't done, as herebounded from a par on No. 2 by sticking his approach on the par-5 thirdwithin two feet and tapping in for birdie. On the par-3 fourth, he knocked histee shot to seven feet and drained the putt to reach 10-under.
After pars on Nos. 5 and 6, Mickelson moved within one stroke of history onthe par-3 seventh, where his tee shot caught a slope on the right side of thegreen and eventually rested seven feet from the cup. He sent home the birdieeffort to hit minus-11 with two holes remaining.
In the end, though, it wasn't meant to be, as a pair of near misses robbedMickelson of a milestone.
On No. 8, -- a par-4 -- he hit the fairway off the tee and sent his approach18 feet to the left of the hole, but his birdie roll came up inches short.
Then it was on to No. 9, another par-4, and again Mickelson found the fairway.This time, though, he left himself 26 feet with his approach and his ensuingputt tracked the cup before catching the right lip and horse-shoeing backtowards its sender, who could only clutch his head in disbelief.
"Well, 60 is awesome," Mickelson continued. "Last time I shot 60 here in '05,I birdied like the last three or four holes just to do that, and I wasecstatic, and I'm ecstatic to shoot 60. But there's a big difference between60 and 59. Not that big between 60 and 61, there really isn't. But there's abig barrier, a Berlin Wall barrier, between 59 and 60."
NOTES: Mickelson also won this tournament in 1996. He and Zach Johnson are theonly players in PGA Tour history to have shot 60 or better on more than oneoccasion ... The five PGA Tour players to record a 59 are: Stuart Appleby,Paul Goydos, David Duval, Chip Beck and Al Geiberger ... Defending championKyle Stanley is 2-under through 16 holes.