Mickelson takes control in Arizona
Masters champion Phil Mickelson made the most of young rival Kevin Na’s lapses on Saturday, capping his third round with two birdies to take a four-shot lead in the Phoenix Open.
Na (21) posted back-to-back bogeys late in the round to leave the door open for Mickelson, who followed up a sparkling second-round 60 with a 66 for a three-round total of 199.
“It was a fun round,” said Mickelson, who holds a lead heading into the final round for the first time since last year’s Masters.
At Augusta, he shared the third-round lead with Chris DiMarco and went on to claim his first major title.
“There were a lot of people out there, and it was a lot of fun to play in front of them,” said Mickelson, who went to university in Arizona. “It felt like I shot over par compared to yesterday [Friday], but it was good enough to get in the lead.”
Playing in the same group, Na and Mickelson were tied for the lead until the par-five 15th, where Na took a bogey after hitting his second shot in the water and missing a short putt to save par.
The miss on 15 seemed to carry over to the par-three 16th, where Na dropped another stroke with his first three-putt of the week.
“I think from there that things went a little wrong,” Na said of his bogey on 15. “A bad break going in the water, and I could have covered it up with that short putt, but I don’t know how that broke left and I missed it.
“From there, that crowd pulling for Phil so much and that little bit of, what do you call it, misstep, kind of shook me up a little bit and affected me on the last couple holes, I think.”
Unlike his fellow American Na, Mickelson was able to overcome adversity.
A sand save at 16 led to birdies on 17 and 18 for Mickelson.
“It was an important putt for me to make,” said Mickelson about the par save.
“You always want to hit a great shot there. After my tee shot, it was disappointing because it was such a poorly struck shot in the wrong spot. I ended up making that putt for par, which was awesome.”
Na, meanwhile, settled for a 70 for sole possession of second place on 203.
Mickelson vaulted into contention with his fantastic Friday round, and is now poised to claim his 24th PGA Tour victory.
His second-round 60 matched the course record on the TPC of Scottsdale shared by New Zealand’s Grant Waite (1996) and American Mark Calcavecchia (2001).
Na, who was the youngest player on tour last year when he finished 87th on the money list, is back in action after a car accident in his native California last week. The crash left his mother with a broken vertebra that will keep her bedridden for three months.
“Tomorrow, I’m just going to go out there and play my best and try and catch Phil, and I think I can,” Na said. “But if I don’t, no big deal. Life goes on and I’m going to get many more chances.”
South Korea’s KJ Choi, Harrison Frazar, Kenny Perry and Steve Flesch were tied for third on 204. Choi and Frazar both carded 66, while Perry and Flesch posted 67.
David Toms and Calcavecchia were next on 205.—Sapa-AFP