Phil Mickelson flirted with the 11th sub-60 round in the history of the PGA Tour on Thursday before settling for a 12-under 60 at La Quinta Country Club in the first round of the Desert Classic in California.
Taking advantage of the easiest course on the PGA Tour last season, Mickelson birdied his first two holes and made the turn in 6-under 30. He then reeled off five more birdies over his next seven holes to set up his chance at the elusive 59.
Needing to birdie the final two holes — both par 4s — Mickelson parred the 17th before rolling in a birdie on his final hole. It marked the 37th round of 60 on the PGA Tour and the third of Mickelson’s career. His two previous 60s came at the Waste Management Open in Phoenix, but TPC Scottsdale is a par-71 course.
The Desert Classic is a Pro-Am format, with players rotating among La Quinta, the Nicklaus Tournament Course and the Stadium Course over the first three days. Sunday’s final round is played at the Stadium Course.
La Quinta yielded the lowest average score (68.831) of any Par 72 on the PGA Tour last season. The Nicklaus Tournament Course was No. 2 (69.445), while the Stadium Course yielded an average of 71.181.
Mickelson is a two-time winner of the Desert Classic (2002, 2014), and did his best to take advantage of the La Quinta course in soft conditions on Thursday. He will play the Nicklaus course on Friday and the Stadium Course in the third round.
Reigning FedExCup champion Justin Rose is the first No. 1-ranked player to compete in the Desert Classic since the world ranking system began in 1986. He shot a 4-under 68 on the Stadium Course on Thursday.
Meanwhile, Spain’s Jon Rahm is seeking to join Johnny Miller (1975-76) as the only repeat champions of the event. He beat Andrew Landry on the fourth hole of a sudden-death playoff last year.
Charlie Reiter, who missed the cut as a high school senior, is in the field again on a sponsor exemption. He currently plays for Southern Cal.