SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – The game of golf has been contested ever since shepherds started swatting makeshift balls around the fields of Scotland some 500 years ago. So anytime someone maintains something has never happened before, listen with a healthy dose of skepticism.
With that in mind, the following tale may have never happened before.
On Thursday, after Phil Mickelson watched his birdie attempt for a 59 agonizingly horseshoe around the final hole and stay dramatically out, he said he was “disappointed” with posting an 11-under 60.
One day later, after taking a six-stroke lead into the final hole only to post a disheartening double bogey for 65, Mickelson once again said he was “disappointed” with the finish.
And so what we’re left with is perhaps something that has never happened dating back to those Scottish shepherds: the first two-round score of 60-65 that was considered “disappointing.”
Of course, it’s not exactly like Mickelson is hanging his head in shame right now. He leads the Waste Management Phoenix Open by four strokes and his two-round total of 125 is just one shot shy of the all-time 36-hole PGA Tour scoring record.
In fact, leave it to Lefty – an eternal optimist at heart – to find the silver lining in a pair of rounds that didn’t finish the way he would have liked.
“You know what happens: You always remember kind of the last hole, the last putt, what have you,” he explained. “But I think it's very possible that's going to help me, because it's got me refocused, that I cannot ease up on a single shot. I've got to be really focused. These guys are going to make a lot of birdies and I've got to get after it and cannot make those kinds of mistakes. Hopefully it'll help me refocus for tomorrow's round and come out and shoot something low.”
Even with the close calls, he’s been low enough so far this week. Mickelson played flawless golf through 35 holes until that final-hole double bogey knocked him from 19 under to only 17 under going into Saturday’s third round.
“We're going to have a fun day tomorrow,” Mickelson said. “We enjoy playing with each other, we play a lot of practice rounds, and we're going to have a fun day, and [all] of us are going to be trying to make birdies and pushing each other along.”
“Obviously Phil is playing very well,” said Haas, who is in second place after rounds of 65-64. “We would need him to do that on 18, and we need him to do more stuff like that for us to catch him. I don't think it's that big of a speed bump for him. He'll make a lot of birdies.”
Competing in this event for the 24th time, nobody knows this place better than Mickelson.
In turn, nobody knows better that relaxing after a couple of low rounds is a recipe for disaster over the weekend.
“I didn't finish the way I wanted to,” he explained. “But I think it's a good example of what can happen on this course. You can make a lot of birdies and eagles, make up a lot of ground, but there's a lot of water and trouble there that if you misstep you can easily make bogeys and double.
“It'll be an interesting weekend, because I think it's going to be kind of a shootout where a lot of guys will be making runs, and it'll be up to me and the other guys in the last group to get going.”
It’s already been an interesting first two days for Mickelson, probably the first two-day score of 125 that could ever be considered “disappointing.” It sounds ridiculous, sure, but so do rounds of, say, 57-62, which could have been possible with a few breaks in the right way.
Instead, he will settle for a four-shot lead and a chance at winning his first PGA Tour title in 51 weeks. And no, there’s nothing disappointing about that.