QUINTA, Calif. (Swing Update) – Phil Mickelson still feels so young. He always plays this way too.
Mickelson started his 27th full season as a professional on Thursday, flirting with one of the few feats he has not accomplished: the magic number of golf. The 48-year-old southpaw still shot a record in the desert classic of under 60, equaling his lowest score of his Phoenix Open career six years ago. It was the best bet he has been in one of the 2077 rounds he has played on the PGA Tour.
"It was kind of a lucky day for me in the sense that I did not feel uncomfortable," said Mickelson. "I did not really have the intense workouts that I would like, but I felt like all the parts were good and the click was done. Some days you have those days when he just clicked. And the bad beatings that I hit, I ran away. I could somehow not have the big score. "
Needing to play the last two holes in the last 2 holes to shoot 59 on foggy and rainy day at La Quinta Country Club, Mickelson missed a 15-foot birdie test on par 4 before scoring a 9-foot berth for the normal -4 18th.
The Desert Classic is the only event on the PGA Tour to have two rounds below 60. David Duval was 59 at the PGA West Palmer Race when he won in 1999. Adam Hadwin shot 59 at La Quinta in 2017 .
"I was aware of it," said Mickelson. "I gave everything I had and I had a good chance. On the 17th, I hit a good start in a good place to hang a sand spot at this right back pin for me. And I hit a good shot, I had 18 feet though, I should have brought it closer, but I still had a good chance of doing the putt. Did a good birdie at 18 years old. It's not an easy hole for me, it's been like sitting by the water. "
Mickelson had a three-shot lead over Adam Long, the 31-year-old PGA Tour rookie, who finished 63 in the dark on the PGA West Nicklaus tournament course. Long turned around with the normal 5 and scored seven birdies – five straight from # 9 through 13 – on an eight-hole course.
The foggy round was Mickelson's first tour since early October and the first in competition since the Tiger Woods win in Las Vegas in November in a special TV event.
"I knew it was not far, but I did not feel ready to leave," said Mickelson. "I just felt that I had to be careful. I felt that I was playing a little more conservative. "
Lefty birdied the first two holes and played the normal back-to-back by 3-in-3 with a birdie at No. 5 and a 5-foot eagle putt at No. 6. He added a birdie ninth of the normal for one before nine thirty, and a birdie in the 10th par-4, 11th in the par-5, 13th in the 5th and 14th in the 4, obtaining a shine in front of the 14th green.
"It was an interesting shot because I could have easily lost one and I ended up taking one," he said.
He then ran into a footer for a birdie on the 16th par-4.
Winner of the tournament in 2002 and 2004, Mickelson will face Nicklaus on Friday and the adjacent PGA West stadium on Saturday. He won the world golf championship in Mexico last year for his 43rd PGA Tour title and his first since the 2013 British Open.
Australian Curtis Luck was third at 64, also playing La Quinta.
Hadwin was 65 years old with Trey Mullinax, Wyndham Clark and Martin Laird. Hadwin played the stadium course, Mullinax and Laird opened on the Nicklaus track and Clark was at La Quinta.
Defending champion Jon Rahm shot a 66 at La Quinta. It fights against a persistent influenza virus.
"Still pretty weak, which may explain why I did not hit it that far," Rahm said. "Not completely recovered. My body is not one hundred percent. "
Justin Rose, first in the standings, had a score of 68 at La Quinta when she started in the year. He is the first player to play in this tournament since the beginning of the world ranking in 1986.
"It's a bit like you're on the starting line and they kept dragging him for 30 minutes in the fog," Rose said. "It was hard to keep warm and stay relaxed. But once I got there, I felt like I was playing very well. "