On course ... Phil Mickelson. Photo: Getty Images
ARIZONA: Phil Mickelson birdied his last four holes on Saturday to grab a six-stroke lead after the third round of the Phoenix Open.
Mickelson, who flirted with a 59 before settling for a first-round 60 and carded a second-round 65 that was marred by a double bogey at 18, had no late lapse to card a seven-under 64 in the $US6.2 million ($5.97 million) PGA Tour event.
His 24-under-par total of 189 matched the 54-hole tournament record set by Mark Calcavecchia in 2001 and put him six strokes in front of fellow American Brandt Snedeker, who had six birdies in firing a 65.
Three-time major winner Padraig Harrington climbed up the leaderboard with an eight-under 63 for 197 to be tied for third with American Ryan Moore (65). Greg Chalmers (66) is the leading Australian, 13 shots behind Mickelson at 11 under.
After two birdies on the front nine, Mickelson added another at the 13th, then stormed in with four birdies, one by going up and down at the par-five 15th and another on the stadium-like par-three 16th with a tee shot less than a metre from the cup. ''Your adrenaline is going there so I always take five yards off the distance and I just hit a hard nine-iron,'' Mickelson said. ''It turned out pretty good.''
If Mickelson can fire another 64 or lower at TPC Scottsdale, he will break the record for the lowest 72-hole score in PGA history, the 26-under-par 254 by Tommy Armour III at the 2003 Texas Open.
The 42-year-old left-hander, a winner of 40 PGA Tour titles including three Masters green jackets, is seeking his first win since last year's Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, a crown he will defend next week.
Mickelson was well left off the tee at the 18th but with a clear line to the green and landed his approach four metres from the cup then sank his birdie putt. ''I blocked it left, but you have a good angle in and given that the pin is back right tomorrow, there's a good chance I'll be there again tomorrow,'' he said.