Phil Mickelson takes two-shot lead at AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am
By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 15/02/16 10:36am
Phil Mickelson put himself in prime position to collect a fifth AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am title after he opened up a two-shot lead on the third day.
Mickelson, who last won the tournament four years ago, followed up Friday's 65 with a flawless six-under 66 at the Pebble Beach links to claim the outright lead on 16 under par.
The five-time major champion started at the 10th and got up and running with a birdie at 11 before he converted a 10-foot birdie putt at 17, and he looked likely to drop a shot at the 18th only to chip in from the rough at the rear of the green to turn in 33.
Mickelson's short game served him well as he got up and down for clutch pars at three of the first four holes on the front nine, and he holed from 12 feet for birdie at the fifth before a trademark flop-shot to six feet at the next set up another gain.
The left-hander, who has won 13 of his 42 PGA Tour titles in California, nailed a 20-foot putt for a third straight birdie at the short seventh, and excellent par putts at eight and nine kept him two strokes clear of the chasing pack.
"I fought hard today," the 45-year-old told Golf Channel. "The golf course was playing much more difficult with the firm greens and the wind picking up. There were a lot of holes I just had to fight for pars. I probably didn't strike it as well as I have been striking it this year, or even in the first couple of rounds.
"But I was able to get up and down, miss it in the right spot and salvage a lot pars on some difficult holes. I've got a little bit of work to get my ball striking back to that level that I need it to be for tomorrow's round. But it's fun to be back in the thick of it."
Mickelson's closest challenger is Hiroshi Iwata, who carded a mixed-bag of a 69 at Spyglass Hill with six birdies and three bogeys as he set the early clubhouse target at 14 under.
Colourful Swede Freddie Jacobson moved into a share of second with three birdies in four holes deep into his round at Monterey Peninsula, although he bogeyed the eighth - his 17th - to slip to 13 under alongside Sung Kang, who followed up his scintillating second-round 60 with a solid three-birdie 70 at Pebble Beach.
World No 2 Jason Day birdied two of his last three holes to cap a 68 at the feature course which lifted the Australian to 10 under, while Justin Rose tumbled down the leaderboard after he failed to build on a superb start to his round.
Rose birdied four of the first six holes, but a wild drive at the eighth cost him a bogey and he dropped another shot at the ninth when he tugged his 144-yard approach from the fairway into thick rough and could not get up and down.
The Englishman made another error at the long 14th when he chunked his third shot into a bunker from just 82 yards and ran up a six, and he went from bunker to bunker at the last to drop another shot and slip back to nine under for the tournament.
Also at nine under is 2014 champion Jimmy Walker, who recovered from an opening bogey at the 10th to produce the round of the day at Pebble Beach - a sparkling nine-under 63.
Walker made three birdies in four holes from the 13th, and he enjoyed a run of two eagles and a pair of birdies in a stunning five-hole stretch before he almost holed his 120-yard approach to the ninth - tapping in to complete a front-nine 29.
While Day has an outside chance of victory on Sunday, world No 1 Jordan Spieth will be playing for pride after he struggled to a disappointing two-over 74 at Pebble Beach, scraping into the final round with nothing to spare on one under par.