60 And Counting
Well, I could hardly let a near milestone on the PGA Tour go unnoticed from yesterday’s opening round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, now could I?
Golf fans everywhere, Phil Mickelson is back…well, at least he was yesterday, and it was both sporting triumph and heartbreak rolled all into one.
If you remember Phil’s play from last week out in Torrey Pines, which could be hard to do considering how low down on the leaderboard he was…well, let’s just say it wasn’t pretty.
Phil’s driver seemed at times like it was poised to try and stretch his drives across the Pacific ocean, and playing from the wilds of the South Course is no fun, as those holes are long and difficult to reach when you’re playing from the middle of the fairways, never mind in from near the condos and office buildings sidling up along the course.
But all that changed when Phil A) put a new driver in the bag and B) flew coach Butch Harmon in for a swing tune up.
So yesterday, in Phoenix, where the crowds love to drink beer and act like they’re at a NASCAR race on the par-3 16th (It’s the only PGA stop I know of where fans actually boo the players if they miss the green on their drive!), Phil brought his new driver and swing and attitude to town!
It went a little something like this: Birdie, Par, Birdie, Birdie, Par Par, Birdie, Par Par.
Then, the back nine went like this: Birdie, Birdie, Birdie, Birdie, Par, Par, Birdie, Birdie, Birdie.
Only, it actually went that way in reverse, because Phil shotgunned his start on the 10th tee.
So here’s where the drama comes in: On hole 8, he needed one more birdie and then par to shoot a 59, something only five other golfers have ever done in PGA Tour history in a professional round.
And, if he birdied 9, he would have shot 58, to my knowledge, a first in Tour history.
He gets to 8 in 2 shots, and has, I’m guessing, about a 20 foot downhiller with a slight left to it. He lines up the putt, strikes it, and the thing runs out of gas centimeters from the hole.
So it won’t be his day for a 58, not unless he eagles 9.
On 9, he once again gets it to the green in 2, and voila, now he has about a 25 footer that takes a little bit more left.
He lines up, thousands surrounding the green, most probably clued into the history that might be made here…the putt’s off and on a gorgeous trajectory to the hole…it comes along the right side of the hole and decides to make a U-turn at the very last second, gravity pulling it against the back of the cup and back around the other side and…up and out of the hole, again centimeters away from the hole.
The golfing gods can be so, so incredibly cruel. It was as if you could hear Zeus roaring down with laughter from up the road in La Jolla.
Phil’s longtime caddie, “Bones,” fell to the green on his knees, ready to sacrifice himself to the great “Caddyshack” gods in the sky to make that putt please, please, please roll back into the hole.
After the round, the Golf Channel correspondent interviewed Phil, and you could see the pain in his eyes.
Yes, of course, he shot a 60, something golfers also don’t get to do very often (and which, I can assure you, I’ll never do, unless it’s on the front nine)…but, that special personal victory was oh so close, and yes, Phil answered, he knew within the first few holes on the front nine there was something special in the air, and that he could well be on his way to a record round.
Phil continues his lead today at 14 under as of this writing, and if it keeps this up, nobody can touch him.
But boy, what he wouldn’t do to have one more shot at that putt, and the PGA Tour history books.