Phil Mickelson flirted with golf’s magic number during the first round of The Desert Classic, then he said something ominous.
“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.
Come Sunday night, Mickelson had a putt to put the pressure on PGA Tour rookie Adam Long and take the outright lead. However, that putt, like so many others on Sunday, went begging.
Tracking for Phil Mickelson … for the solo lead … pic.twitter.com/t9ono4xpZx
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) January 20, 2019
“I had a terrible putting day; one of the worst I can recall in a while,” Mickelson said. “I missed a bunch of short ones on the front and some birdie opportunities, but it felt awful with the putter. I hit a lot of good shots today though but just couldn’t get the ball to go in the hole.”
Ultimately, whether Mickelson sees his first tournament of 2019 as a failure, he hit the right notes when speaking after the 3-under par 69 that left him one shot out of a potential playoff.
“It’s a weird game how sometimes if you haven’t played for awhile it just can click and come right back,” he said. “But usually you need a little bit of a foundation there coming down the stretch. When you get to feel the pressure you need to have that foundation of practice and seeing the shots that you want to hit, seeing the ball go in on the greens and so forth and I didn’t really have that today. I played okay today, I didn’t play poorly I just really struggled on the greens.
“It’s a great way to start the year and hopefully, I’ll build on it and try to get better from here.”
Mickelson lost 3.251 strokes to the field average on the green. He had 33 putts on the day and only made 46 feet worth of putts. Of the 73 pros playing on Sunday, Mickelson putted better than one of them.
Mickelson will have a week off to work on his game, missing his hometown event — The Farmers Insurance Open — for the first time in 29 years. He’ll tee it up again in two weeks at the Waste Management Phoenix Open.