Phil Mickelson cursed the golfing gods after he was cruelly denied the first-ever 62 in a major championship as an 18-foot birdie attempt agonisingly spun out of the hole at the last at Royal Troon.
His eight-under-par effort, which matched the sparkling conditions on a sun-kissed day on the Ayrshire coast, was enough to give the 2013 winner a three-shot lead after the first round of the 145th Open Championship.
However, Mickelson admitted he felt “heartbroken” after being denied an outright place in golfing history rather than having to share the honour of carding a 63 with nine others in this event and 28 overall in the majors.
“It was one of the best rounds I’ve ever played, yet I want to shed a tear right now,” said the five-time major winner after becoming the first player since Rory McIlroy achieved the feat at St Andrews in 2010 to sign for 63 in the game’s oldest major.
“That putt on 18 was an opportunity to do something historical. I knew it, and with a foot to go I thought I had done it. I saw that ball rolling right in the centre. I went to go get it, I had that surge of adrenaline that I had just shot 62, and then I had the heartbreak that I didn’t and watched that ball lip out. It was, wow, that stings.
“It’s such a rare opportunity to do something historic like that and, if I had just hit a weak flail-off [putt] and never had a chance and left it short, so be it. But this ball was hunting right in the centre and didn’t go. It was just heartbreaking.”
It was the second time in his career that Mickelson had been denied by the golfing gods, having seen a 25-foot birdie putt for a 59 miss by a fraction in the 2013 Waste Management Open on the PGA Tour in Phoenix.
“This one’s going to stay with me for a while because of the historical element of the major championships,” he added. “There’s a lot of guys that have shot 63, but nobody has shot that 62. That would have been really something special. I’m just not going to have opportunities like that to do that. So to have that putt lip out, that’s going to sting for a while.”
Told that 28 players had previously signed for a 63 in majors, he said it was the sign of a “curse because that ball should have been in” before raising another laugh in the media centre in Troon when asked if he believed in the golfing gods. “I didn’t, but I do now,” he replied.
Mickelson’s opening salvo beat the course record, held previously by Tiger Woods and Greg Norman, by a shot and left him three shots ahead of compatriot Patrick Reed and Germany’s Martin Kaymer. “I was able to take advantage of these conditions,” he admitted of a light wind dropping away in the afternoon.