Mickelson cards 60 in first round of Desert Classic
Phil Mickelson becomes the first player in ShotLink era to record three rounds of 60 or better
January 17, 2019
By Sean Martin, PGATOUR.COM
Phil Mickelson interview after Round 1 of Desert Classic
LA QUINTA, Calif. – Phil Mickelson started Thursday with low expectations. Then he almost shot the lowest score of his storied PGA TOUR career.
Mickelson needed to birdie La Quinta Country Club’s last two holes to shoot his first sub-60 round in an official PGA TOUR event. His 18-footer on 17 barely missed, however. He birdied 18 to become the first player in TOUR history to shoot 60 three times and take a three-shot lead over Adam Long.
“It was a kind of a lucky day for me in the sense that I did not feel sharp heading in,” Mickelson said. “I haven't really had the intense practice sessions that I would like, but I felt like all parts were okay and it just clicked, … and the bad shots that I hit I got away with.
“It was a fun day, but I certainly did not expect this to be the case, but I'm also excited to start the year so I was fresh.”
Thursday’s round was his lowest score on TOUR in relation to par. His 11 holes of birdie or better (10 birdies, 1 eagle) were his most sub-par scores in a single round.
His previous two 60s came at the par-71 TPC Scottsdale, site of the Waste Management Phoenix Open. He went on to win both times.
He was millimeters from shooting 59 in the first round there six years ago, suffering a brutal lip-out on the 18th green. He also shot 60 in the second round in 2005. Mickelson did shoot 59 in the second round of the 2004 Grand Slam of Golf, an unofficial event.
Thursday’s round started with a 10-foot birdie putt. Then he birdied the second hole after narrowly avoiding a costly miscue.
His younger brother/caddie, Tim, handed Phil a provisional ball after his drive bounced off a cart path left of the fairway. Before he could hit a second tee shot, he was informed that his ball had stayed in-bounds by a few yards.
Mickelson then lofted a wedge shot over a tree and within 4 feet of the hole. He birdied the par-5 fifth hole after driving into a fairway bunker on an adjoining hole.
“Those two bad swings I got away with, made birdies on both holes and that was kind of the key to the round,” Mickelson said.
He was 5 under after making a 4-foot eagle putt on the par-5 sixth hole. He made a 10-foot birdie putt on No. 9 to make the turn in 30.
That was the start of an eight-hole stretch during which he had just seven putts. He holed a 35-foot birdie putt on No. 10 after pulling his approach shot. His trademark short game was on display on the next five holes.
Phil Mickelson rolls in a long birdie putt at Desert Classic
He reached 8 under par after knocking a flop shot close to the hole on the par-5 11th hole. His playing partner, Aaron Wise, said that was Mickelson’s most impressive shot of the day.
“He got short-sided on 11 and I thought that may end his birdie streak because the finishing holes here are pretty tough,” Wise said. “He hit this flop shot that rolled to 2 feet and it was a tap-in birdie.”
He had long bunker shots from across the green on the next hole, but got up-and-down both times. Then he chipped in from short of the 14th green and made an 8-foot par putt on 15 to keep alive his chances of breaking 60.
Needing birdie on the final three holes, Mickelson knocked a 9-iron to 5 feet on the par-4 16th. His two-putt on 17 was his first since missing a 15-foot birdie putt on the eighth hole.
“I was giving it all I had and I had a good chance,” Mickelson said. “On 17 I hit a nice tee shot in a good spot to kind of hook a sand wedge into that back right pin for me. And I hit a good shot, I had 18 feet though, I should have hit that closer, but still had a good chance to make the putt.”
As he was walking off the 17th green, he mentioned breaking 60 for the first time.
“He said, ‘I don’t know if you were aware but I needed to birdie the last two,’” Tim said. “I said, ‘Oh ya, I was fully aware.’ Then I joked, ‘Chez Reavie holed out three times in one round (at the Sony Open in Hawaii). You just need to hole out once.’”
Phil couldn’t sink his approach shot on the last hole, but he hit it to 7 feet and made the birdie putt. It was just his 21st putt of the day. He had nine putts on the back nine.
MUST READS: Round 1, Desert Classic
Justin Rose made his 2019 debut with six birdies after hitting 9 of 14 fairways and 13 greens.
Jon Rahm fought off a lingering flu and uncharacteristic weather to shoot a 6-under 66 in La Quinta.
Adam Hadwin, who shot 59 at the 2017 Desert Classic, hit all 18 greens in regulation on Thursday with five birdies and a chip-in eagle.
Phil Mickelson birdies No. 18 to shoot 60 at Desert Classic
Mickelson, who hit driver 10 times Thursday, missed just four fairways and four greens.
“I knew it wasn't far off but it didn't feel like I was ready to go,” he said. “I just felt like I needed to be careful. … I tried not to make too many big mistakes and then I putted really well.”
The Desert Classic is the only event that has seen multiple 59s. Twenty years ago, David Duval became the first player to win with a final-round 59. He shot that score at PGA West’s Palmer Private Course. Adam Hadwin set La Quinta Country Club’s course record with a 59 in the third round two years ago.
Thursday started with a one-hour fog delay. Rain fell periodically throughout the round, as well.
“When the rain comes down, it just makes (the greens) pure,” he said. “It knocks down any imperfections and you can really make a lot of putts.”
He proved that, and almost shot his first sub-60 round in the process.
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