Phil Mickelson pointed his putter at the cup and started to walk toward the hole, ready to celebrate golf's magic number.
Right at the end, though, the ball caught the right edge of the cup, curled 180 degrees to the other side of the hole and stayed out. A fraction of inch turned cheers to gasps and cost him a 59 on Thursday in the first round of the Phoenix Open in Scottsdale, Ariz.
"Six feet to go, it was in the center," Mickelson said. "Three feet to go, it was in the center. A foot to go, it was in the center, and even as it's approaching the hole, I couldn't envision which side of the hole it could possibly miss on, and it ended up somehow just dying off at the end, catching the lip."
Playing partners Jason Dufner and Rickie Fowler watched in disbelief when the 25-foot birdie putt lipped out.
"Unlucky," Dufner said. "He was walking it in."
"I thought it was in," Fowler said. "I was pulling for him."
Mickelson settled for an 11-under 60 at TPC Scottsdale, matching the tournament record he already shared with Grant Waite and Mark Calcavecchia.
"Well, 60 is awesome," Mickelson said. "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.
Finishing his round on the front nine, the former Arizona State star birdied the par-3 seventh to reach 11 under.
"Probably the best shot of the day because it's a tucked pin over that bunker and I hit a 6-iron to 4 or 5 feet," Mickelson said. "It was really a good shot from 196 yards."
He parred the par-4 eighth, leaving an 18-foot putt a rotation short.
"That putt is so fast down to that right pin because it's going toward the valley, it's downhill and down grain," he said. "I thought, 'I can't leave it short.' So, I just got it right on line, and it was tracking and it pulled up short."
On the par-4 ninth, he split the fairway with a 325-yard drive and hit a gap wedge left of the pin.
"Hit great drives on eight and nine and ended up with a pitching wedge and a gap wedge and didn't hit the best shots, but gave myself great putts at it," Mickelson said.
He was thinking about breaking 60 after making the turn in 7 under 29, a mark that tied the tournament record for the back nine.
"(When) I birdied three and four, 'Done deal. I'm going to get this done,' " Mickelson said. "Very disappointed that I wasn't able to birdie the last couple."
Five players have shot 59 in official PGA Tour events. Al Geiberger did it in the 1977 Memphis Classic, Chip Beck in the 1991 Las Vegas Invitational, David Duval in the 1999 Bob Hope Invitational, Paul Goydos in the 2010 John Deere Classic and Stuart Appleby in the 2010 Greenbrier Classic.
Ryo Ishikawa had the lowest round on a major tour, shooting a 12-under 58 to win the 2010 Crowns on the Japan Tour.
Seeking his third victory in the event, Mickelson had a four-shot lead over Ryan Palmer, Brandt Snedeker, Padraig Harrington,
Ted Potter Jr. and Jeff Maggert when play was suspended because of darkness in the round that started an hour late because of frost.
Vijay Singh withdrew before the round, a day after saying he used deer-antler spray.
Singh, facing possible sanctions from the tour, cited a back injury. The spray contains a banned muscle growth hormone.
European Tour: Richard Sterne opened with a 10-under 62 to take a one-shot lead at the Dubai Desert Classic in United Arab Emirates. Lee Westwood shot a 67, and Sergio Garcia, second last week in Qatar, had a 68.