Phil Mickelson held his head in horror on the ninth green, his 18th of the day. His 26-foot putt birdie putt for 59 curled around the hole and stayed out.
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"It’s crushing," Mickelson said, "because you don’t get that chance very often."
David Duval, who shot one of golf’s magical 59s, tweeted: "he just got robbed."
No one would disagree.
Mickelson was attempting to become the sixth golfer to shoot 59 in a PGA Tour event. He settled for matching the TPC Scottsdale tournament record, one he already shared, with an 11-under-par 60 Thursday to take a four-stroke lead over five other golfers at the Waste Management Phoenix Open.
Mickelson, who started on the back nine, opened with four straight birdies and shot 29 on his first nine. He said he started thinking about 59 as he made the turn.
Then Mickelson birdied Nos. 1, 3 and 4. He needed only two more birdies over the final five holes. His thought at the time was "done deal. I’m going to get this done," he said afterward.
He started thinking about going where no PGA Tour pro has gone before: 58. But he also conceded later that he felt the pressure mounting.
"There is a Berlin Wall-size barrier between 59 and 60," Mickelson said.
Mickelson had 12 one-putt greens and made 11 birdies, including all four par-3 holes. He said he didn’t think he had ever had four deuces like that in one round before.
Mickelson called his 6-iron tee shot at the 196-yard, par-3 seventh hole, his 16th of the round, the best of the day. "It’s a tucked little pin over the (left, front) bunker, and I hit it to 4 or 5 feet," he said.
He made the putt to reach 11 under. The putt at No. 9 will be replayed over and over, but the 20-footer he left short and in the heart of the hole on No. 8 might be the one that keeps him up late at night.
So it came down to No. 9, where Mickelson bashed another drive down the middle at the 464-yard, par 4. He hit gap wedge 26 feet left of the hole. When he stroked the putt for 59, Mickelson started walking after it. He pointed at the hole and began to raise his putter in celebration. He was sure it was good.
"Six feet to go, it was in the center; 3 feet to go, it was in the center; a foot to go, it was in the center," Mickelson said. "I couldn’t envision which side of the hole it could possibly miss on."
But it horseshoed out and left him on the precipice of joining one of golf’s most elite clubs. He buried his face in his hands. The crowd, wishing to see history, let out a collective groan. His caddie, Jim "Bones" Mackay, ended up on his hands and knees.
"I wanted it for him," Mackay said.
Said Mickelson: "I just knew I could do it, and, darn it, it just lipped out."