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Jan. 31, 2013 at 11:00 PM
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Mickelson just misses 59 at Phoenix Open

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz., Jan. 31 (UPI) -- Phil Mickelson came agonizingly close to shooting a 59 Thursday and settled for a 60 that gave him a four-shot lead at the Phoenix Open.

Mickelson had a legitimate chance to fire the lowest round in the history of the PGA Tour, needing birdies on his final two holes at the TPC-Scottsdale course to turn in a 58.

His birdie putts on the two closing holes combined to miss by no more than two inches -- the first one stopping just short of the cup and the second one spinning out after appearing to be perfect all the way.

Mickelson's 60 was the first shot on the tour this year and left him at 11-under par after the opening round.

On a perfect day for golf, Ryan Palmer, Padraig Harrington, Ted Potter, Jeff Maggert and Brandt Snedeker all shot 64 to share second place. Bill Haas and major championship winners Y.E. Yang and Justin Leonard were among those at 65, as was recent Humana Challenge champion Brian Gay.

Current Masters champ Bubba Watson, returning to the tour after a two-week illness that left him 10 pounds lighter, shot a 67.

Mickelson began play at the 10th hole Thursday and birdied the first four holes en route to a 29 on the back nine.

He made four more birdies on the front side and came to the par-4 eighth, his 17th hole of the day, with a good chance to make golfing history. The only 59s ever shot on the tour have been turned in by Al Geiberger (1977), Chip Beck (1991), David Duval (1999), Paul Goydos (2010) and Stuart Appleby (2010).

Mickelson hit his second shot at the eighth to within 17 feet and the downhill putt stopped on the lip of the cup.

"It was going in the hole," Mickelson said. "I didn't think there was any way I could leave it short, but I guess there was a way."

At the par-4 ninth, Mickelson put his second shot 25 feet from the hole. As that putt neared the cup, Mickelson took a few steps toward the hole and extended his putter in the classic pose of a golfer who is certain the ball is going to go in.

Instead, it caught the right lip of the cup, spun halfway into the hole and then lipped out on the left side.

"Six feet from the hole it was going right in the middle," Mickelson said. "That one will be tough to take because you don't get many chances to do that (shoot 59). I'm excited about the 60, but you don't get that kind of opportunity very often."

Bryans back at doubles for U.S.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla., Jan. 31 (UPI) -- U.S. doubles specialists Mike and Bob Bryan face a Top 20 pairing from Brazil in this weekend's first-round Davis Cup series.

Brazil sends a team including Thomaz Bellucci, Thiago Alves and doubles players Marcelo Melo and Bruno Soares to Jacksonville, Fla., for a best-of-five series against the Americans.

The matches will be played indoors on a hard court, the preferred surface of the U.S. team.

The Bryans comprise the No. 1-ranked doubles team in the world -- individually they are 1 (Mike) and 2 (Bob). They are coming off a win at the Australian Open, which was their record 13th Grand Slam doubles title.

Mike is 22-2 in Davis Cup doubles play and Bob is 21-2. They have 20 victories when they play together, a Davis Cup record.

Their scheduled match Saturday against Melo and Soares, who are also highly ranked, comes between two singles matches each Friday and Sunday.

The first match Friday features world No. 20 Sam Querrey opening for the Americans against the 36th-ranked Bellucci. World No. 16 John Isner takes the court for the second match against Alves, ranked 141st.

They switch opponents for Sunday, with Isner going against Bellucci before Querrey and Alves play the fifth match of the series.

The United States owns 32 Davis Cup titles but has won just once (2007) since 1995. Brazil's best results are advancing to the semifinals in 1992 and 2000. The United States is 3-1 in series against Brazil.

The Brazil-United States winner advances to the April 5-7 Davis Cup semifinals against either Belgium or Serbia.

Other first-round matchups find Croatia at Spain, Italy at Croatia, France at Brazil, Argentina at Germany, Kazakhstan at Austria and Switzerland at the defending champion Czech Republic.

Ravens, 49ers practice on same field

NEW ORLEANS, Jan. 31 (UPI) -- The Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers took the unusual step of working out on the same field Thursday in advance of their meeting in Sunday's Super Bowl.

After Baltimore players said they would rather hold their practice session on grass instead of the artificial surface at Tulane University, the NFL agreed to let them go through their workout Thursday at the New Orleans Saints' headquarters in suburban Metairie.

That is also the location being used by the 49ers as they prepare for Sunday's NFL title game.

A temporary barrier was built at the Saints' facility to create separate practice fields and the teams' two sessions overlapped by about 10 minutes.

Baltimore players dressed at Tulane and went through a 30-minute walkthrough workout, then boarded five buses for the 8-mile trip to the Saints' headquarters.

"It was a very normal, late-season Thursday practice," Baltimore Coach John Harbaugh said.

Harbaugh's brother Jim, coach of the 49ers, said he saw no problems with the two teams working out at the same location.

"Just cooperating spirits," he said.

A similar incident took place nine years ago in Houston when heavy rains forced the abandonment of one of the practice facilities and both New England and Carolina wound up going through workouts at the same site.

The Harbaugh brothers will take part in another unusual Super Bowl happening Friday when they hold a joint news conference.

Super Bowl head coaches normally hold separate news conferences on the Friday before the game in their final meeting with the media prior to the contest.


Michigan State rallies to fight off Illinois

EAST LANSING, Mich., Jan. 31 (UPI) -- Keith Appling scored the last of his 24 points at the foul line with 2 seconds to go Thursday, securing an 80-75 win for No. 9 Michigan State over Illinois.

The Spartans overcame a 10-point halftime deficit by holding the Illini scoreless for the first 4:38 of the second period and eventually fought off the upset bid.

Appling made 7-of-12 from the field and he hit a clutch shot with 48 seconds left that gave the Spartans a six-point lead. Michigan State improved to 18-4 and is 7-2 in Big Ten Conference play. Indiana and Michigan share the league lead at 7-1 and will meet Saturday.

Michigan State scored the first 14 points of the second half and took the lead for good when Gary Harris hit a 3-pointer 3:44 into the period.

Harris and Denzel Valentine both scored 14 points and Michigan State hit 53 percent of its field goal attempts.

Illinois (15-7, 2-6) was led by Tracy Abrams with 16 points.

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