With a single day record crowd of more than 179,000 enjoying ideal conditions and cheering for him on every shot, Phil Mickelson opened a seemingly insurmountable six shot lead after 54 holes at the Waste Management Phoenix Open on Saturday. With a run of four consecutive birdies on the closing holes,and five in his last six holes, Mickelson, who is seeking his third win at the WM Phoenix Open, shot a 7-under 64 for third round and stands at 24-under 189.
Giving chase and most likely playing for second money are Brandt Snedeker (65) at 18-under and Ryan Moore (65) and low scorer of the day, Padraig Harrington (63), who are at 17-under.
After a ho-hum front nine in which he was 2-under, Lefty stepped on the gas and fought off separate challenges after lead had twice been cut to three shots.
After a birdie at the par-5 15th where he was able to get up-and-down from a greenside bunker, “Phil the Thrill” came to the famous 16th hole and dazzled the raucous crowd as his nine-iron came to rest just 20 inches from the hole. Two more birdies at 17 and 18 put Mickelson in rarefied air as he matched the 54-hole scoring record at this event which was set by Mark Calcavecchia in 2001. Another round of 64 on Sunday would give Mickelson the all-time 72-hole scoring record which is currently held by Tommy Armour III at the Valero Texas Open in 2003.
“The first priority is trying to take care of business this week,” Mickelson said shortly after his round. “I want to make sure I take care of business first regarding the tournament, and those other records and so forth…try not to worry about those.”
Mickelson has been taking care of business where it counts most. In the third round he hit just under 65% of his fairways, just over 94% of greens in regulation and had a putting average of 1.588.
By: Mike Verrastro
Follow Mike on Twitter @mjv1230 or on his blog, putting4birdie at http://bit.ly/14qvujW