Phil Mickelson (pictured) lipped out with a putt of about 20 feet on the 18th hole in the first round of the Phoenix Open on Thursday, which meant he had to settle for a 60 rather than an elusive first score of 59 in his professional career. Mickelson played almost perfect golf in a round that included 11 birdies and not one bogey.
His putt on the final green appeared to be heading for the hole. If it had been hit a shade less strong Mickelson would have broken 60 for the first time on Tour. He had to settle for a score of 11-under and a four-shot lead ahead of Friday’s second round.
Only five players in the history of the US PGA Tour have broken 60. Mickelson has now posted a score of 60 two times in his career. He and Zach Johnson are the only players to ever shoot 60 more than once during their careers. At the turn on Thursday Mickelson was playing so well that he thought even a 58 was on the cards.
Mickelson generally plays his best golf in the early part of the season. He enjoys the ‘California Swing’ as this part of the schedule includes tournaments that are played close to where he lived in the early years of his life.
However, Lefty had a very ordinary event in the Farmers Insurance Open last week, played at Torrey Pines close to the San Diego home he was brought up in before moving to Arizona to attend college. That means Mickelson has local connections with Scottsdale where the Phoenix Open has been staged since 1987.
Brandt Snedeker is joint second behind Mickelson after the first round and could emerge as a potential winner of the tournament. He has a solid bank of course form in his record and clearly can handle the raucous atmosphere created by the huge crowds. However, it will take some performance to beat Mickelson in this form.
The winner at Scottsdale usually has to shoot four rounds in the 60s and the average winning score over the last six years has been 16-under. Another consideration is that players that do well here often have local connections, so the fact that Mickelson played college golf at Arizona State makes him a leading contender this week, especially after such a stunning first round.