Mickelson falls one shot short at Desert Classic
January 20, 2019
By Sean Martin , PGATOUR.COM
Phil Mickelson birdies No. 15 at Desert Classic
LA QUINTA, Calif. – Phil Mickelson started his first event of 2019 with the lowest score of his PGA TOUR career.
He ended it with a disappointing defeat, losing a two-shot lead in the final round of the Desert Classic. Mickelson followed Thursday’s 60 at La Quinta Country Club with rounds of 66 and 68 to post the second-lowest 54-hole score of his career.
He started the final round two shots ahead of Adam Hadwin and three ahead of Adam Long.
Long made a 14-foot birdie putt on 18 to beat Mickelson (69) and Hadwin (67) by one shot. Long’s Sunday 65 included chip-ins on the 12th and 15th holes. He finished at 26-under 262 (63-71-63-65).
Mickelson has now failed to convert six of his last seven 54-hole leads. This was the second consecutive time he lost a two-shot lead entering the final round. The other came at the 2016 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
This was Mickelson’s first official TOUR event since the Safeway Open in October and his first competitive round since his match with Tiger Woods.
In spite of his low scores, he said that he was rusty at the start of the week. His lack of recent competition may have contributed to Sunday’s struggles, as well.
“It’s a weird game how sometimes if you haven’t played for awhile it just can click and come right back,” Mickelson said. “But usually you need a little bit of a foundation there coming down the stretch. When you get to feel the pressure, you need to have that foundation of practice and seeing the shots that you want to hit, seeing the ball go in on the greens. I didn’t really have that today.”
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Adam Long clinched the title with a 15-footer for birdie on the last hole.
Adam Hadwin notched fourth straight top-6 finish in the desert.
Mickelson was trailing by two when the final group reached the 10th tee. He bogeyed the par-4 ninth after driving into the water and Hadwin birdied the hole.
Mickelson made back-to-back birdies on 15 and 16 to tie Hadwin and Long atop the leaderboard, though. He made birdie after missing a 10-foot eagle putt.
Mickelson narrowly missed lengthy birdie putts on the final two holes, as well. The long putts weren’t the problems, though.
“It was the short (putts). It was the short putts that I really turned around these last few years and today I just struggled,” Mickelson said.
He lost 3.2 strokes on the greens Sunday. He missed a 4-foot putt to three-putt the first hole and also missed two putts from 5-7 feet.
“I had a terrible putting day, one of the worst I can recall in a while,” he said. “It started right on the first hole. … I felt awful with the putter. I hit a lot of good shots today, though, but just couldn’t get the ball to go in the hole.”
Mickelson, 48, said earlier in the week that swing speed and putting are the two skills that see decline at his age. He led the field in driving distance (302.5 yards on all tee shots) but finished 64th (out of 73 players) in Strokes Gained: Putting.
Phil Mickelson grabs share of the lead with birdie on No. 16 at Desert Classic