Mickelson's 60 a great round, but comes up short

By Jason SobelJanuary 31, 2013, 11:06 pm

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Unless you have three Masters titles to your name and $67,681,223 in official career on-course earnings and the adulation of millions of fans and a power game off the tee mixed with a finesse game around the greens and a buttery putting stroke and a great family life and your own charitable foundation, you probably don’t know what it’s like to be Phil Mickelson.

So here’s a clue.

On Thursday, in the first round of his 468th start on the PGA Tour, Mickelson tied the best score of his career. His 11-under 60 was equal to the sixth-best score in history, four strokes better than anyone else in the Waste Management Phoenix Open field and 10 strokes better than any of his four rounds at Torrey Pines a week ago.

Afterward, he was asked about it. Myriad questions about what went right and why he scored so low and how excited he was about the day. Mickelson looked each questioner in the eye, shook his head in that patented “aw, shucks” way of his and this is what he said:

“Man, you just don't get those opportunities very often…

… I’m very disappointed…

… it's crushing…

… it's unfortunate…

… it kind of mortifies me…

… that one was heartbreaking…”

There is something that separates the great players from the good and the elite players from the great. And no, that something isn’t deer antler spray.

Most players would be performing cartwheels down the fairways after a 60. They’d be ecstatic about the accomplishment, proud of the way they started low and went even lower.

Phil Mickelson

Photos: Mickelson through the years

Not that Mickelson wasn’t, but his tone said otherwise. To him, this was an opportunity wasted. There have been five scores of 59 posted in PGA Tour history and the excitable lefty wanted to join that list. No, he wanted to better it. He wanted to become the first player ever to post lower than 59. The first player to make the impossible possible.

This was different than the last time he shot 60 in an official tournament, right here at TPC-Scottsdale. Eight years ago, in the second round of this event, Mickelson birdied the final five holes to post that score. It was like a race car driver stepping on the gas pedal over the last few laps to sneak across the finish line in impressive time.

Sure, there were missed chances and botched putts, but on that day 60 felt like an emphatic success.

On Thursday, it felt like failure.

It’s all in the way it happened, of course. He opened with a birdie on his first hole – the 10th on the course – and then followed with another and another and another. When he made the turn, Mickelson was at 7-under 29 and not just thinking about 59. He was thinking about 58.

“For the whole back nine I'm thinking, let's go,” he later said. “I made that putt on 1, I'm thinking it. I hit a shot on 2 that had action; it went a little long, but made a good par. [Then] I birdied 3 and 4. Done deal. I'm going to get this done.”

He needed two birdies in his last five holes. Then he needed one birdie in his last two holes. Just one little birdie for a man who averages 4.75 each round so far this season – or one every 3.78 holes.

On his second-to-last hole, Mickelson had a mere 17 feet for that birdie. His read was true, but he left it short, recalling an old axiom in the game: Never leave your putt for a potential 59 short.

And so it came down to the final hole. After another drilled drive and green in regulation, 25 feet separated him from history. Mickelson stroked the putt, watched it, walked after it, pointed at it, saw it hit the lip of the cup and somehow stay out of the hole, horseshoeing back toward him mockingly.

He held his head and muttered to himself. Just a few feet away, his longtime caddie, Jim “Bones” Mackay, fell to his knees. They hadn’t mentioned the score between them – Mackay compared it to “a pitcher in the middle of throwing a no-hitter” – but each man knew what was at stake.

“Well, 60 is awesome,” Mickelson explained. “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 all realms of the game, Mickelson succeeded on Thursday. He played better than everyone else in the field; scored better than almost everyone else to ever play a PGA Tour round. And yet, he couldn’t climb that wall. He couldn’t break the barrier from great to historic, leaving him shaking his head and muttering and using words like “disappointed” and “mortified.”

This is what it’s like to be Phil Mickelson. To be so proficient at your craft, such an elite competitor, that shooting one of the lowest scores in history isn’t good enough, for the simple reason that it’s not the lowest. This is what it’s like to feel failure – even when you find success.

Getty Images

Rose: 'Never' has Rory putted as well as Bay Hill

By Ryan LavnerMarch 19, 2018, 1:20 am

ORLANDO, Fla. – Justin Rose didn’t need to ponder the question for very long.

The last time Rory McIlroy putted that well was, well …?

“Never,” Rose said with a chuckle. “Ryder Cup? He always makes it look easy when he’s playing well.”

And the Englishman did well just to try and keep pace.

After playing his first six holes in 4 over par, Rose battled not just to make the cut but to contend. He closed with consecutive rounds of 67, finishing in solo third, four shots back of McIlroy at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Rose said this weekend was the best he’s struck the ball all year. He just didn’t do enough to overtake McIlroy, who finished the week ranked first in strokes gained-putting and closed with a bogey-free 64.

“Rory just played incredible golf, and it’s great to see world-class players do that,” Rose said. “It’s not great to see him make putts because he was making them against me, but when he is, he’s incredibly hard to beat. So it was fun to watch him play.”

Getty Images

Rory almost channels Tiger with 72nd-hole celebration

By Ryan LavnerMarch 19, 2018, 1:11 am

ORLANDO, Fla. – Rory McIlroy’s final putt at the Arnold Palmer Invitational felt awfully familiar.

He rolled in the 25-footer for birdie and wildly pumped his fist, immediately calling to mind Woods’ heroics on Bay Hill’s 18th green.

Three times Woods holed a putt on the final green to win this event by a stroke.

Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

McIlroy was just happy to provide a little extra cushion as the final group played the finishing hole.

“I’ve seen Tiger do that enough times to know what it does,” McIlroy said. “So I just wanted to try and emulate that. I didn’t quite give it the hat toss – I was thinking about doing that. But to be able to create my own little bit of history on the 18th green here is pretty special.”

Getty Images

McIlroy remembers Arnie dinner: He liked A-1 sauce on fish

By Will GrayMarch 19, 2018, 1:06 am

ORLANDO, Fla. – Fresh off a stirring victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Rory McIlroy offered a pair of culinary factoids about two of the game’s biggest names.

McIlroy regretted not being able to shake Palmer’s hand behind the 18th green after capping a three-shot win with a Sunday 64, but with the trophy in hand he reflected back on a meal he shared with Palmer at Bay Hill back in 2015, the year before Palmer passed away.

“I knew that he liked A-1 sauce on his fish, which was quite strange,” McIlroy said. “I remember him asking the server, ‘Can I get some A-1 sauce?’ And the server said, ‘For your fish, Mr. Palmer?’ He said, ‘No, for me.’”

Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

A few minutes later, McIlroy revealed that he is also a frequent diner at The Woods Jupiter, the South Florida restaurant launched by Tiger Woods. In fact, McIlroy explained that he goes to the restaurant every Wednesday with his parents – that is, when he’s not spanning the globe winning golf tournaments.

Having surveyed the menu a few times, he considers himself a fan.

“It’s good. He seems pretty hands-on with it,” McIlroy said. “Tuna wontons are good, the lamb lollipops are good. I recommend it.”

Getty Images

DeChambeau comes up short: 'Hat’s off to Rory'

By Will GrayMarch 19, 2018, 12:48 am

ORLANDO, Fla. – Amid a leaderboard chock full of big names and major winners, the person that came closest to catching Rory McIlroy at the Arnold Palmer Invitational turned out to by Bryson DeChambeau.

While Henrik Stenson faltered and Justin Rose stalled out, it was DeChambeau that gave chase to McIlroy coming down the stretch at Bay Hill. Birdies on Nos. 12 and 13 were followed by an eagle out of the rough on No. 16, which brought him to within one shot of the lead.

But as DeChambeau surveyed his birdie putt from the fringe on the penultimate hole, McIlroy put an effective end to the proceedings with a closing birdie of his own to polish off a round of 64. DeChambeau needed a hole-out eagle on No. 18 to force a playoff, and instead made bogey.

That bogey ultimately didn’t have an effect on the final standings, as DeChambeau finished alone in second place at 15 under, three shots behind McIlroy after shooting a 4-under 68.

“I thought 15 under for sure would win today,” DeChambeau said. “Rory obviously played some incredible golf. I don’t know what he did on the last nine, but it was deep. I know that.”

Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

DeChambeau will collect $961,000 for his performance this week in Orlando, just $47,000 less than he got for winning the John Deere Classic in July. While he would have preferred to take McIlroy’s spot in the winner’s circle, DeChambeau was pleased with his effort in Sunday’s final pairing as he sets his sights on a return to the Masters.

“For him to shoot 64 in the final round, that’s just, hat’s off to him, literally. I can’t do anything about that,” DeChambeau said. “I played some great golf, had some great up-and-downs, made a couple key putts coming down the stretch, and there’s not really much more I can do about it. My hat’s off to Rory, and he played fantastic.”