Sunday, August 15, 2004

Mickelson shoots 5-under 67 to become major threat again

PGA notebook

Enquirer news services

HAVEN, Wis. - Phil Mickelson appeared as if he were going to roll into the lead of the 86th PGA Championship on Saturday.

Mickelson joined the leaders quickly, another blazing start with three birdies on his first four holes, a 40-foot par save that he called the key to his round, and two more birdies to make the turn in 31, just one shot behind.

But he couldn't keep it going, three-putting the 11th from long range and picking up only one more birdie for a 67.

Phil Mickelson was tied for third with four others at 8-under par for 54 holes. Vijay Singh led with a 12-under 204. Justin Leonard was a stroke behind at 205.

Mickelson has a chance to become the first player since Jack Nicklaus in 1975 to win the Masters and PGA in the same year, and he can break new ground as the first to finish in the top three at all four majors. He was second in the U.S. Open, third in the British Open.

"The only major championship I've won is the only major I've led after 54 holes," Mickelson said. "It's tough to catch up on Sunday, but it's a lot better than being six back. I'd like to be in the lead or tied, but I like it a lot better now than I did five hours ago."

Ernie Els, a runner-up at the Masters and British Open, hasn't given up on his chance to win the third leg of the career Grand Slam.

"Anything can happen on this course," Els said.

RYDER CUP UPDATE: Six golfers already have qualified for the 12-man American team - Tiger Woods, Mickelson, Davis Love III, Jim Furyk, Kenny Perry and David Toms. Chad Campbell, ranked seventh, is a virtual certainty. By tonight's finish of the PGA, three others in the top 10 in points earned in PGA Tour events will be assured of trying to recapture the cup from the European pros at Oakland Hills outside Detroit from Sept. 17-19.

On Monday, Hal Sutton will name his two wild-card choices - always the captain's most controversial decisions.

Nine golfers have a realistic chance of either qualifying on points or being one of Sutton's choices - Fred Funk, Steve Flesch, Jay Haas, Jerry Kelly, Stewart Cink, Scott Verplank, Chris DiMarco, Chris Riley and, suddenly, Leonard.

"You watch what guys do coming down the stretch," Sutton said. "Some guys perform better under that pressure, some worse."

Leonard, 30th in points, might need to win today to convince Sutton he belongs on the team.

DIVOTS: Jerry Kelly's missed cut ended his streak of 27 consecutive cuts made, leaving Scott Verplank (25) second to Tiger Woods' 129 straight. ... Roy Biancalana is one of three club pros who made the cut. He was scheduled to tee off alone at 7:40 a.m. but asked for a marker to play the third round with him. "I was the last one to putt out (Friday) and the first one to hit it this morning," Biancalana said after shooting a 75. "I should have just slept here. It felt like a quick turnaround."

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