SCOTTSDALE: Phil Mickelson came up agonisingly short in a bid to become the sixth player to dip under 60 on the PGA Tour when his birdie putt for a magical 59 horseshoed out at the Phoenix Open on Thursday.
Having lined up a 25-footer at the par-four ninth, his final hole in the opening round, Mickelson watched in anguish as his ball caught the right edge of the cup before rolling around the back of hole and spinning out. “The last six feet it was right on glide slope, it should have been right in the middle,” Mickelson told Golf Channel after shooting an 11-under-60. “To have that putt on line, I am kind of mortified that it didn’t go in.”
The four-times major champion, who had pointed his putter in the direction of the ball as it headed towards the cup, clutched his head with his left hand when his hopes of a 59 were so cruelly dashed. Mickelson had to settle for a share of the course record at the TPC Scottsdale — which he already held jointly with Grant Waite and Mark Calcavecchia — but grabbed a commanding four-shot lead in the fifth PGA Tour event of the season.
Thirty-three players were still out on the course when play was suspended in fading light after the start of the opening round had been delayed. Americans Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Palmer, Jeff Maggert and Ted Potter Jr, along with triple major winner Padraig Harrington of Ireland in his first start of the year on the US circuit, opened with 64s.
Belgian rookie Nicolas Colsaerts and American Brian Gay, winner of the Humana Challenge at La Quinta 11 days ago, were among a group of nine players knotted on 65.
Masters champion Bubba Watson, who has not played since the season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Hawaii because of flu, opened with a five-birdie 67 on a near-perfect day for scoring in the Arizona desert.
Sterne leads at halfway point
DUBAI: Overnight leader Richard Sterne sank a birdie on 18 to take a one-shot lead over Danish Thorbjorn Olesen and two others at the halfway point of the Dubai Desert Classic on Friday. Sergio Garcia pulled to within three of Sterne despite struggling with shoulder problems that required treatment midway through his round. Sterne, a South African who has struggled with his own injuries in recent years, finished with a 12-under 132. Olesen, Tommy Fleetwood and Stephen Gallacher were a shot back. Chris Doak (69) of Scotland, Andreas Harto (67) of Denmark and Maximilian Kieffer (68) of Germany were two shots off the pace in fifth. Three others, including Garcia (67) and Jeev Milkha Singh (67) were a further shot back in a four-way tie for eighth. — AP