The conditions weren’t perfect, but Phil Mickelson’s golf nearly was, as the PGA Tour veteran flirted with golf’s magical number 59 in the first round of the Desert Classic on Thursday. “Lefty” as he is known, posted a 12-under par 60 at La Quinta Country Club, and has the first round lead after a drizzly Thursday.

Phil Mickelson
Phil Mickelson complained of rust in his golf game before the start of the Desert Classic, then promptly went out and nearly shot a 59. (Image: The Desert Sun)

Before the start of his first round, Mickelson was a 40/1 longshot to win the event. The odds for him are now have plummeted to 5/2. If he can hold on to win the event, it would be his first victory since winning the World Golf Championships – Mexico Championship.

Ironically Mickelson tweeted before his round that he didn’t feel that confident in his game.

“I’m excited to start another year on tour at the Desert Classic! Although – I’m a bit rusty, I’m also fresh and ready to get started,” Mickelson posted.

Birdie fest for Mickelson

He then went out and scorched the Palm Springs-area golf course, recording 10 birdies and an eagle, with no bogies. When he reached the 16th hole he knew if he made three consecutive birdies he would card a 59.

“I was aware that if I make that 4-footer for birdie and then birdie the last two I would shoot 59,” Mickelson said. “I was aware of it, I was giving it all I had and I had a good chance.”

He made the short birdie putt on No. 16 and then was faced with a tricky shot on the next hole to keep the chance for 59 alive.

“On 17 I hit a nice tee shot in a good spot to kind of hook a sand wedge into that back right pin for me,” Mickelson said. “And I hit a good shot, I had 18 feet though, I should have hit that closer, but still had a good chance to make the putt.”

When he didn’t convert, he still had a chance to make history. When he dropped in his birdie putt on the final hole he recorded his third 60 on tour, the first person to ever have three rounds that low in a career.

Roaring Start to 2019

The last time he shot 60 was at the 2013 Waste Management Open in Scottsdale, Arizona, and he went on to win that event. Mickelson cautioned about expecting a victory after 18 holes.

“It’s very difficult to start a round and go low like this and then follow it up because the expectations are anything short of a victory is a failure,” Mickelson said. “And yet we have three full rounds on some challenging golf courses with a lot of potential birdies. So it’s a tough position to be in, but it’s one that I thoroughly enjoy.”

Still Mickelson is feeling pretty good about the start to his year.

“So we’re starting fresh and right now,” Mickelson said. “It’s a good start to the year. So this is, it’s been a fun round.”

He was much less modest on Twitter after the first day.

“The rust came off pretty quick and easy. Nailed it. Look out 2019!” he posted.