KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. – Jordan Spieth sounded as if he was channeling “the most interesting man in the world,” in these outdated Dos Equis commercials when he mentioned, “I don’t watch golf, but I promise you I’m going to turn it on to watch him today.”
“Yeah, it’s Phil, right,” he added. “It’s theatre.”
Mickelson, wearing all black like one other ageless surprise, Gary Player, and sporting his now acquainted Highway Patrolman shades, placed on a world-class efficiency Saturday, threatening to run away with the 103rd PGA Championship earlier than a few stumbles.
He closed with 5 pars to shoot 2-under 70 and take a one-stroke lead over Brooks Koepka at the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Golf Resort.
After sharing the 36-hole lead, the 50-year-old Mickelson charged forward with 4 birdies in his first seven holes.
In a lot more docile circumstances at the Pete Dye format, he regarded just like the golfer who has received 44 PGA Tour titles and 5 majors somewhat than the one that hasn’t lifted a trophy in more than two years or recorded a top-20 end this 12 months aside from towards the round bellies at the PGA Tour Champions Cologuard Classic.
Phil Mickelson reacts after his putt on the eighth inexperienced through the third round of the PGA Championship golf match. Mandatory Credit: David Yeazell-USA TODAY Sports
Phil the Thrill dazzled, sending the introduced attendance of 10,000 per day – the crowds are at least triple that – into a delirious frenzy. Throaty cheers of “Let’s go Phil,” crammed the air making it sound if not like 1999 then at least a pre-COVID world with Mickelson meting out thumbs as much as his followers as if giving out sweet on Halloween.
By the time he canned a 7-foot birdie putt at 10 to achieve double-digits below par, his lead had swelled to 5 strokes and Phil’s devoted have been able to crown him champion.
“I felt I had a very clear picture on every shot,” Mickelson mentioned of his torrid begin.
But if we’ve realized something about Mickelson through the years, it is that he by no means makes it simple.
As Spieth identified, Mickelson all the time supplies theater and his five-stroke lead light away as Mickelson hit into a fairway bunker at 12, took his drugs and made bogey, then snap-hooked his tee shot into the drink at 13, needed to re-tee and made double bogey. Meanwhile, Louis Oosthuizen made birdies at Nos. 11 and 12, and salvaged a bogey after driving into the water at 13, too. He shot 72 to path by two and might’ve been even nearer if he had made a few putts, together with lacking a gimme for birdie at 7 and taking three putts from 21 ft at No. 17.
“I think we all got lucky that he came backwards to the field,” Oosthuizen mentioned of Mickelson.
Phil Mickelson reacts after a putt on seventh inexperienced through the third round of the PGA Championship at Louis Oosthuizen seems to be on. Photo by David Yeazell-USA TODAY Sports
The different beneficiary of Mickelson’s nervy again 9 was Koepka. As Mickelson sprayed a drive proper at the par-5 16th that stopped in a sandy space below a golf cart, Koepka was up forward on the inexperienced changing his third birdie of the inward 9.
“Objects in mirror are closer than they appear,” an overserved fan mentioned. “BK, baby!”
They have been knotted at 7 below till Koepka missed a 7-foot par putt at 18.
“That was the worst putting performance I think I’ve ever had in my career,” he mentioned. “Can’t get much worse.”
But Koepka, who could win his third PGA title on Sunday and match Mickelson with 5 majors at age 31 – earlier than Mickelson had received any – performed himself into the ultimate group on Sunday, bum knee and all.
“I’m right where I want to be, and we’ll see how tomorrow goes,” Koepka mentioned.
So is Mickelson, who is the fourth participant to carry the 54-hole lead or co-lead in a major at age 50 or older since 1934, and would turn out to be the oldest participant to win a males’s major championship. A sixth major would tie him with Nick Faldo and Lee Trevino.
Fellow 50-something Steve Stricker, who threatened to win the Waste Management Phoenix Open earlier this 12 months, isn’t shocked to see Mickelson atop the leaderboard. They teamed up in a observe round earlier this week towards Zach Johnson and Masters runner-up Will Zalatoris. When Mickelson and Stricker jumped to a 3-up lead after three holes, Mickelson turned to his accomplice and mentioned loud sufficient for his opponents to listen to, “You know, Strick, I thought we’d be more up at this point.”
“And we were 3-up after 3. Typical Phil,” Stricker mentioned. “He still has a tremendous amount of desire to compete at this level, and that’s why he’s doing it and that’s why he’s playing well.”
Mickelson will want each little bit of that moxie and Phil swagger and the guile and expertise constructed up from a lifetime of competing for trophies large and small if he is to win his first major since 2013 and hoist the Wanamaker Trophy 16 years after he did so at Baltusrol. Spieth, for one, likes Mickelson’s probabilities, saying, “he’s got four good rounds in him at any course,” particularly given the change in wind route anticipated to wreak havoc on Sunday.
“I would actually point out that tomorrow’s wind direction is very suitable for a lefty on that into-the-wind nine holes when you get it in off the left with a lot of trouble on the right side, he can start it off left and hold the wind or even draw it back into those pins,” Spieth mentioned.
And identical to that, seemingly out of left area, ‘ol Lefty simply could have one more major in him.
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