If only we all could be as “rusty” as Phil Mickelson.
Mickelson entered his first PGA Tour round of 2019 with relatively low expectations, tweeting out beforehand, “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.”
That “rust” translated to 10 birdies, seven pars and one eagle at LaQuinta Country Club, which tied his career-low score on the PGA Tour with a 12-under par 60. Naturally, that ridiculous round was enough to open up a three-shot lead through 18 holes at the Desert Classic.
“I really didn’t think that this was going to be a day that I was going to go low,” he said after the round. “I came in with very low expectations, I haven’t had a lot of time to practice and prepare and I felt like all areas were okay, but you never really know until you get out and you play and compete. And I hit a shot here or there and ended up making a putt and all of a sudden I was quite a few under par.
“The good thing was I made a couple bad swings and I got away with them. This golf course, there’s out of bounds close by, it’s easy to make big mistakes and I was able to get away with the one or two poor swings. And then I putted phenomenal.”
Because the tournament is played over three courses with only the Stadium Course being outfitted with Shotlink data, the stats from Mickelson’s round are sparse. He did, however, 1-putt 13 times. And considering he hit 14 of the 18 greens, it’s safe to say that his characterization of his “phenomenal” putting was accurate.
Incredibly, Thursday was the third time Mickelson has shot 60 in PGA Tour play with both of his other rounds that approached golf’s magic number coming at TPC Scottsdale at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. He went on to win both times he opened with a 60 — in 2013 and 2005 — but Mickelson said going that low to start puts more pressure on a player to win.
“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,” he 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.”
And as for that rust? Phil admitted it came off quickly.
The rust came off pretty quick and easy. Nailed it. Look out 2019! ?️♂️⛳️
— Phil Mickelson (@PhilMickelson) January 18, 2019