Mickelson just misses 59 at Phoenix Open

Last updated 13:01 01/02/2013

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Phil Mickelson missed out on a 59 by a fraction of an inch in the first round of the Phoenix Open.

Mickelson had a chance to become the sixth player in PGA Tour history to break 60 with a 25-foot birdie attempt on his last hole, the par-4 ninth at TPC Scottsdale.

The putt looked good all the way, and Mickelson pointed his putter at the cup as he prepared to celebrate.

 Right at the end, though, the ball caught the right edge of the cup, curled 180 degrees to the other side of the hole and stayed out.

''Six feet to go, it was in the centre,'' Mickelson said.

''Three feet to go, it was in the centre. A foot to go, it was in the centre, and even as it's approaching the hole, I couldn't envision which side of the hole it could possibly miss on, and it ended up somehow just dying off at the end, catching the lip.

"At that speed, to lip out as much as it did is very rare.

''I'm excited to shoot 60, but to see that last putt lip out the way it did and not go in, it's crushing because you don't get that chance very often to shoot 59.''

His caddie, Jim Mackay, fell to his knees and stayed there several seconds.

''He could not have hit a better putt,'' Mackay said.

Playing partners Jason Dufner and Rickie Fowler thought it was going in, too. Mickelson settled for an 11-under 60, matching the tournament record he already shared with Grant Waite and Mark Calcavecchia.

''Well, 60 is awesome,'' Mickelson said.

''Last time I shot 60 here in '05, I birdied like the last three or four holes just to do that, and I was ecstatic, and I'm ecstatic to shoot 60.

"But there's a big difference between 60 and 59. Not that big between 60 and 61, there really isn't. But there's a big barrier, a Berlin Wall barrier, between 59 and 60.''

In perfect conditions on the course softened by weekend rain, Mickelson birdied the first four holes and reached 8 under with another four-birdie run capped by a 20-footer on the par-4 first - his 10th hole of the round.

He added birdies on par-5 third and par-3 fourth.

The former Arizona State star struggled in his first two events this year and also caused a sensation by saying new federal and state tax rates kept him from being part of the San Diego Padres' ownership group and might cause him to move away from California.

He tied for 51st last week at Torrey Pines in his hometown event after opening the season with a tie for 37th in La Quinta.

Mickelson had a four-stroke lead over Ryan Palmer, Brandt Snedeker, Padraig Harrington and Ted Potter Jr. with half the players still on the course. Fowler and Dufner shot 68.

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Vijay Singh withdrew before the round, a day after saying he used deer-antler spray and was ''absolutely shocked'' that it may contain a banned substance. 

The 49-year-old Fijian cited a back injury. He faces possible sanctions from the tour.

Singh first revealed he used the spray in an interview with Sports Illustrated.

The magazine said Singh paid one of the owners of Sports With Alternatives To Steroids US$9,000 last November for the spray, hologram chips and other products.

The company says its deer-antler substance contains a banned performance-enhancer connected to human growth hormone.

The start of play was delayed an hour because of frost.

- AP

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