Phil Mickelson lit up TPC Scottsdale on Day 1 of the 2013 Waste Management Phoenix Open, lipping out a birdie putt on his 18th hole to settle for an 11-under round of 60. Mickelson leads by four over Brandt Snedeker, three-time major champion Padraig Harrington and others that shot 64 on Thursday.
It was a particularly low-scoring day, which makes Mickelson's ability to separate himself from the field to this extent all the more impressive.
Starting at the par-4 10th hole, Mickelson nearly drained his approach shot for eagle before settling for birdie. As it turns out, that was a sign of things to come.
The cagey, 42-year-old veteran birdied his first four holes, parred the next two and then closed out his front nine with three more birdies to turn in a seven-under 29.
Four birdies on the next nine followed, but all the talk will be about the cruel lip-out on No. 9.
ESPN's Justin Ray pointed out how much Mickelson seems to like this course.
There have been four 60's shot at TPC Scottsdale in this event. Phil Mickelson has 2 of them.— Justin Ray (@JRayESPNGolf) January 31, 2013
As an Arizona State alum, it's become somewhat of a hometown event for Mickelson on Tour. That showed up once again, as the crowd was devastated over the outcome at the last tournament.
Shane Bacon of Yahoo! captured the anguish felt by Mickelson and caddy Jim "Bones" Mackay:
Phil and Bones. twitter.com/shanebacon/sta…— Shane Bacon (@shanebacon) January 31, 2013
Sometimes, golf is just cruel. The game was extremely kind to Mickelson all day long prior to that final hole letdown, although he managed to birdie one of the last five. He could have very well shot 58, and he would have done so with birdies on his final two holes.
It was a riveting return to form for Mickelson, who has been inconsistent recently and endured a lackluster week at the Farmers Insurance Open, where he played just two-under par through four rounds.
But on this day, it was clear that Mickelson was on his game. He hit 16 out of 18 greens in regulation, had just 25 putts and averaged just under 23 feet from the pin on his approach shots. What Mickelson emphasized as the big difference, though, was the new RAZR Fit Xtreme Callaway driver that he put in his bag for this week.
Having missed wildly both ways with his previous club, there was a marked improvement even in the margin that Mickelson missed fairways by, which put him in prime condition to score.
Play was suspended due to darkness, which cut short several players' rounds. Brian Wacker of PGATOUR.com broke the news on Twitter:
Play suspended for darkness at @wmphoenixopen. Phil leads by four over five players, including Snedeker and Harrington.— Brian Wacker (@pgatour_brianw) February 1, 2013
There weren't a shortage of highlights on this occasion with so many rounds in the mid-60s, so here is a look at some of the top shots from those leading the charge in the desert.
Note: All videos courtesy of PGATOUR.com
As can always be expected from the compact, popping putter head of Snedeker—this shows the reigning FedEx Cup champion draining a nice birdie putt at the par-3 seventh. His round of 64 included seven birdies, two bogeys and an eagle on No. 17.
Mickelson probably wishes he could borrow Ted Potter, Jr.'s score on the ninth hole. Potter stuck his approach shot to six feet and birdied his final hole to finish seven-under for the day.
Check out the full highlights from Mickelson's round, which include his own thoughts. It is definitely the most impressive round of golf at this early juncture in 2013.
(For complete scores, check out PGA.com)
|1||Phil Mickelson ||-11|
|T2||Brandt Snedeker ||-7|
|T2||Padraig Harrington ||-7|
|T2||Ted Potter, Jr. ||-7|
|T2||Ryan Palmer ||-7|
|T2||Jeff Maggert ||-7|
|T7||Y.E. Yang ||-6|
|T7||Brian Gay ||-6|