Mickelson nearly shoots 59, leads Phoenix Open

Phil Mickelson came within a horse-shoed putt of recording the sixth 59 in PGA Tour history on Thursday at the Waste Management Phoenix Open.

Mickelson entered the last hole at TPC Scottsdale's Stadium Course needing a birdie to make history, but when his 26-foot putt lipped around the cup he settled for an 11-under 60 and a 4-stroke lead.

"You don't have chances to shoot 59 often," said Mickelson. "To have that putt on line I'm kind of mortified that it didn't go in."

Although the birdie chance didn't fall, Mickelson still managed to match his career-low round and tie the course record, which he equaled in 2005 when he won this tournament for the second time.

World No. 7 Brandt Snedeker, Padraig Harrington, Ryan Palmer, Ted Potter Jr. and Jeff Maggert all carded a 7-under 64 before the opening round was suspended on account of darkness. Play was delayed an hour at the start due to frost.

Nick Watney and Humana Challenge winner Brian Gay highlight a group of 11 knotted in seventh place at minus-6. Of the 11, only John Mallinger and John Rollins have yet to finish their rounds.

Vijay Singh, a two-time winner at this event, withdrew prior to the start of the first round. The 49-year-old Fijian has been the subject of scrutiny since he admitted to using deer antler spray, a product that includes a banned substance under the PGA Tour's Anti-Doping Policy. He cited a back injury as the reason for this withdrawal.

Mickelson, himself involved in a minor controversy last week over his comments about state and federal tax laws, opened on the 10th tee Thursday and put himself in spectacular position with a sparkling 29 on his outward nine. The lefty birdied his first four holes before recording pars on Nos. 14 and 15.

He bounced back with another birdie on the 16th, to the delight of the masses in the grandstands, and then turned the trick again on each of his next three holes.

That run left Mickelson 8-under through 10, but he wasn't done, as he rebounded from a par on No. 2 by sticking his approach on the par-5 third within two feet and tapping in for birdie. On the par-3 fourth, he knocked his tee shot to seven feet and drained the putt to reach 10-under.

After pars on Nos. 5 and 6, Mickelson moved within one stroke of history on the par-3 seventh, where his tee shot caught a slope on the right side of the green and eventually rested seven feet from the cup. He sent home the birdie effort to hit minus-11 with two holes remaining.

In the end, though, it wasn't meant to be, as a pair of near misses robbed Mickelson of a milestone.

On No. 8, -- a par-4 -- he hit the fairway off the tee and sent his approach 18 feet to the left of the hole, but his birdie roll came up inches short.

Then it was on to No. 9, another par-4, and again Mickelson found the fairway. This time, though, he left himself 26 feet with his approach and his ensuing putt tracked the cup before catching the right lip and horse-shoeing back towards its sender, who could only clutch his head in disbelief.

"Well, 60 is awesome," Mickelson continued. "Last time I shot 60 here in '05, I birdied like the last three or four holes just to do that, and I was ecstatic, and I'm ecstatic to shoot 60. 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."

NOTES: Mickelson also won this tournament in 1996. He and Zach Johnson are the only players in PGA Tour history to have shot 60 or better on more than one occasion ... The five PGA Tour players to record a 59 are: Stuart Appleby, Paul Goydos, David Duval, Chip Beck and Al Geiberger ... Defending champion Kyle Stanley is 2-under through 16 holes.