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Mickelson lips out a chance at 59

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Phil Mickelson tried to walk it home and he nearly did.

“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,” Mickelson said.

Jim “Bones” Mackay, Mickelson’s caddy, took a hop, a side-step and then collapsed to his knees as the putt for 59 lipped out.

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

Although TPC Scottsdale might not be considered hallowed golfing ground, the 11 birdies that Mickelson had made caught the attention of some tortured golfing soul, who decreed that enough was enough, that Mickelson would not enter the pantheon of those who break 60. For all of us, 11 birdies in a round would be a highlight that might surpass the birth of a child or an acceptance to an Ivy League school. For a professional golfer like Mickelson, it was an opportunity to make 12, and he certainly tried.

The round began on the back side of the course known for its rocking fans. After approach shots inside 10 feet led to birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 (his first two holes of the day), Mickelson nearly aced No. 12, stuffing an iron to two feet for a third-consecutive birdie. A wayward drive to the native area in the No. 13 fairway nearly cost Mickelson a shot, as he was forced to pitch out some 90 yards, leaving over 160 in. Undaunted, he stuffed yet another approach to two feet, for a fourth-consecutive strike against par. After a terrific lag putt from more than 50 feet on his fifth hole, Mickelson had another chance at a stroke-save, but missed an eight-foot birdie try on No. 15.

Coming to the stadium setting on the famous par-3 16th, Mickelson’s efforts to move the needle were rewarded as he slipped an approach 17 feet from the hole and then nailed the putt to reach five-under. Two more birdies on Nos. 17 and 18 (from four and 15 feet, respectively) brought the southpaw to seven-under and the crowd to its feet.

The train found little reason to slow its pace as the back nine commenced. Lefty buried a 22-footer on No. 1 (his 10th hole) and a 13-foot effort on No. 4. Sandwiched between were an up-and-down par on No. 2 and a tap-in from a foot and a half on No. 3. Looking back at the round, the recovery for par on the second hole kept the momentum going. After a hot approach that flew long and left of the green, Mickelson pitched to 11 feet with his third, but coaxed the par putt home.

Standing on No. 5 tee, Mickelson had to know that two more birdies would bring him to 12-under par, a 59 against TPC-Scottsdale’s par of 71. The way his game had revealed itself to that point, who among the crowd would have bet against him? On Wednesday, Phil Mickelson shared his affinity for the course with reporters:

“The thing I love about TPC Scottsdale is its risk-reward,” Mickelson told reporters. “You have so many opportunities to go for it, try to make birdies or eagles, but with great penalty if you don’t pull the shot off because there’s so much water, especially the last six, seven holes of the golf course.”

The risk-reward design of the course nearly derailed his march against history. An average approach from 160 yards led to a 43-foot, two-putt for par on No. 5, followed by a near-mucking of No. 6. After his new Callaway driver put him in the left rough, Mickelson once again caught a flyer and sailed the green, leaving a pitch-back of some 10 yards. Lefty snuggled the ball inside five feet and drained a twitchy little nod to keep hope alive.

The swashbuckler strode to No. 7’s tee and stuck an iron inside seven feet, as if to say “Yes, I can birdie all the par 3s.” And he did, knocking the approach putt in for the fourth two on his scorecard.

“Probably the best shot of the day because it’s a tucked little pin over that bunker and I hit a 6-iron to four or five feet,” Mickelson said. “It was really a good shot from 196 yards.”

Moving to No. 8, his penultimate, the game was truly on. In order to gain access to a small and heralded corps, Mickelson would need to find a way to birdie one of two par 4 holes that exceeded 460 yards in length. A two-putt par from 18 feet set the stage for the last-hole ebb and flow that tied the course record and staked Mickelson to an early four-stroke lead.

Mickelson hinted that he was close to the game he wanted each of the last two weeks. Might Tiger Woods’ victory at Torrey Pines, Mickelson’s San Diego home turf, have inspired Lefty to ratchet his game up? Check around Sunday night for the answer.

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Ronald Montesano writes for GolfWRX.com from western New York. He dabbles in coaching golf and teaching Spanish, in addition to scribbling columns on all aspects of golf, from apparel to architecture, from equipment to travel. Follow Ronald on Twitter at @buffalogolfer.

5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Ronald Montesano

    Feb 3, 2013 at 10:46 pm

    Roy…Sounding like Sergio~

    Mulligain…yes and yes.

  2. Mulliagain

    Feb 3, 2013 at 4:19 pm

    Great round and a great putt!

  3. Roy Jones

    Feb 3, 2013 at 11:27 am

    Fate hates the big oaf and loves Tiger

  4. Ronald Montesano

    Feb 2, 2013 at 6:35 am

    Troy…I agree~it was a great putt. I suspect that our putting experts would say that the putt was a prime candidate to lip out, however. It was bending and picking up speed, not dying at the hole. All it needed to do was hit an edge (as it did) and fate would take over. That it did the horrible horseshoe was worse for Phil and Bones.

    Remember too, that Phil made a few great saves off camera to get to that point. Funny how he could have gone 58 or 57, as he only played -1 over the final 5 holes. What a magical round.

  5. Troy Vayanos

    Feb 1, 2013 at 10:35 pm

    Great round of golf by Mickelson.

    Still can’t believe that last putt lipped out. Phil has continued the hot form through today shooting a six under 65.

    Can he keep it going for 36 more holes?

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REPORT: Tiger Woods to play in the Genesis Open on Feb 15

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Last season, Tiger Woods withdrew from a press conference at the Genesis Open due to back spasms. This season, Woods will reportedly play in the 2018 Genesis Open at Riviera C.C. in Pacific Palisades, California from February 15-18.

By withdrawing from the 2017 Genesis Open — an event which his Tiger Woods Foundation hosts — Woods ensured that a promising comeback was not to be. At the start of 2017, Woods committed to play in the Farmers Insurance Open, the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, the Genesis Open and the Honda Classic… an aggressive schedule for Woods, who hadn’t played much competitive golf in the previous year due to back injuries and surgeries. Things didn’t go as planned, however, as Woods missed the cut at the Farmers, withdrew after an opening-round 77 in Dubai, and withdrew from the Genesis Open and the Honda.

Since then, Woods has had spinal fusion surgery, and he recently finished T9 at the 18-player 2017 Hero World Challenge. It was there he showed the golfing world — and probably himself, too — that he can still compete among the world’s best golfers when he’s healthy.

At the Hero World Challenge, Woods was consistently hitting 179 mph of ball speed off the tee with his driver, and despite some early concerns with the wedge, he showed prowess around and on the greens. He was yip-less, fast, healthy, and finished 8-under through four rounds. A Tiger Woods comeback seems more plausible now than it has in three years.

Woods will continue to test his game at the 2017 Genesis Open — a start that will come 26 years after competing as a 16-year-old amateur in the 1992 Nissan Open at Riviera. Much like 26 years ago, Woods comes to Riviera as a golfer who needs to prove himself… it’s just that this time around, he has 14 majors and 79 PGA Tour wins to his name.

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Thursday’s Photos from the 2017 PNC Father/Son Challenge

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GolfWRX is live this week from the 2017 PNC Father/Son Challenge at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club in Orlando, Florida.

The 20-team field includes some of the game’s legendary major champions, and their sons. Notable teams include John Daly/Little John Daly, Nick Faldo/Matthew Faldo, Tom Kite/David Kite, Bernhard Langer/Jason Langer, Greg Norman/Greg Norman Jr., Jack Nicklaus/Gary Nicklaus Jr., and Lee Trevino/Daniel Trevino.  The teams will compete in a scramble format over 36 holes to decide the winners of the Willie Park Trophy.

Last year, David Duval and his step-son Nick Karavites took home the trophy, and they are back in the field this year to defend.

Check out our photos below from this year’s event!

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Discussion: See what GolfWRX members are saying about the photos

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Friday’s Photos from the 2017 QBE Shootout

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GolfWRX is live this week from the 2017 QBE Shootout at Tiburon G.C. in Naples, Florida. Formerly known as the Franklin Templeton Shootout, or the Shark Shootout, the unofficial event plays host to 24 of some of the world’s best golfers, competing in a two-person team competition. The format calls for 54 holes; first-round scramble, second-round modified alternate shot, and third-round fourball (or better ball).

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Here is a list of the teams:

  • Daniel Berger-Gary Woodland
  • Keegan Bradley-Brendan Steele
  • Kevin Chappell-Kevin Kisner
  • Jason Dufner-Billy Horschel
  • Harris English-Matt Kuchar
  • Tony Finau-Lexi Thompson
  • Brian Harman-Pat Perez
  • Russell Henley-Kyle Stanley
  • Charley-Hoffman-Zach Johnson
  • Shane Lowry-Graeme McDowell
  • Brandt Snedeker-Bubba Watson
  • Sean O’Hair-Steve Stricker

Last year, Harris English and Matt Kuchar took down the crown, finishing at 28-under par for the event. Of course, they’ll be playing together again this year as the defending champs.

Check out our photos from the 2017 QBE Shootout below!

Friday’s Galleries

Discussion: See what GolfWRX members are saying about the photos in our forums.

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