January 18, 2019 / 1:19 AM / a month ago

Golf - Mickelson flirts with 59 in first start of season

(Reuters) - Phil Mickelson came up just short of a magical 59 on Thursday after carding 10 birdies and an eagle for a 60 in his opening round of the year at the Desert Classic in Southern California.

Jan 17, 2019; La Quinta, CA, USA; Phil Mickelson lines up a putt on the sixth green during the first round of the Desert Classic golf tournament at La Quinta Country Club. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

The five-times major champion needed birdies on his final two holes to become just the 11th player to record a sub-60 round on the PGA Tour but a par on 17 scuppered his chances.

A birdie on 18 left him one stroke shy of the mark.

The round of 12-under at the La Quinta Country Club still represents the 48-year-old’s lowest score in relation to par and is his third career round of 60, a PGA Tour record.

It gave him a three-stroke lead over fellow American Adam Long, who bounced back from an opening hole bogey to finish with a nine-under round of 63.

Australia’s Curtis Luck was alone in third after firing a bogey-free round of eight-under 64.

Prior to the round Mickelson had said on Twitter he was excited to start the season but was “a bit rusty”, and even after his flawless display he said he did not feel at his sharpest on the foggy and wet course.

“It was kind of a lucky day for me. I did not feel sharp heading in,” he told Golf Channel.

“Sometimes you have those days where it all clicks.

“The bad shots I hit I was able to get away with and didn’t have the big score. And I made a lot of birdies.

“It was a fun day but I certainly did not expect this to be the case, but I’m also excited to start the year so I was fresh.”

Mickelson, a two-time Desert Classic champion who is in the hunt for his 44th career PGA Tour win, will look to build on his terrific start on Friday but will do so on a different course.

The tournament is played out over three courses during its four days with La Quinta considered the easiest of them.

Reporting by Rory Carroll; Editing by Peter Rutherford

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