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Mickelson Off to a Hot Start in Phoenix

Bubba Watson hits from the sixth tee during the first round of the Phoenix Open golf tournament, Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013, in Scottsdale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Bubba Watson hits from the sixth tee during the first round of the Phoenix Open golf tournament, Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013, in Scottsdale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Scottsdale, Ariz. — 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 yesterday in the first round of the Phoenix Open.

“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.”

His caddie, Jim Mackay, fell to his knees and stayed there several seconds.

“He could not have hit a better putt,” Mackay said.

Playing partners Jason Dufner and Rickie Fowler also 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.

“I shot it in the PGA Grand Slam of Golf. I shot 58 in a practice round. But to do it in a tournament would have been historic for me, something I’d always remember, and I’ll always remember that putt on the last hole probably, too.”

Finishing his round on the front nine, the 42-year-old former Arizona State star birdied the par-3 seventh to reach 11 under.

He parred the par-4 eighth, leaving an 18-footer a rotation short.

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. Japan’s 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-stroke 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.

Soccer

Beckham Joins
French Club

Paris — In a dazzling career filled with riches and titles, David Beckham is taking his globe-trotting soccer tour to one of the most alluring destinations of all.

The 37-year-old midfielder signed a five-month contract with Paris Saint-Germain yesterday, and has agreed to essentially play for free. He will donate his salary to a children’s charity.

“It’s one of the things we talked about from the start, but this all happened so quick,” said Beckham, who did not disclose how much he will be paid or which group will get the money. “I thought what a great idea it would be that the salary would go to a children’s charity in Paris.”

The former England captain chose the ambitious French club after rejecting offers from other teams. The move came as the transfer window was starting to close and marks the latest step in a career that has seen Beckham win titles with Manchester United, Real Madrid and the Los Angeles Galaxy.

Beckham recently finished a six-year stint with the Galaxy in Major League Soccer. Whether he can still be a force in European soccer is uncertain, especially with so many talented players on a PSG team that has cost nearly $366 million to assemble since its Qatari owners took charge in June 2011.

Baseball

Grace Sentenced to Jail

Phoenix — Former Arizona Diamondbacks television analyst Mark Grace has been sentenced to four months in jail under a work-release program.

The 48-year-old former first baseman with the Diamondbacks and the Chicago Cubs pleaded guilty yesterday to felony endangerment and misdemeanor driving under the influence of alcohol.

Grace was arrested last August in Scottsdale — his second drunken driving arrest in 15 months — and could have faced more than three years in prison. He had pleaded not guilty in October to four felony counts of aggravated DUI and was scheduled to go on trial March 19.

The Diamondbacks fired him as their analyst after the August arrest but later invited him to participate in a fantasy camp.