KIAWAH ISLAND, SC – Wanting to stay focused as he got older, Phil Mickelson began to meditate in his spare time. In Round 3 of the PGA Championship on Saturday, he clearly took his new diversion to the workplace, pausing for long contemplative moments, sometimes with his eyes closed, as he prepared to execute a shot.
For 11 holes on Saturday, the result was an impressive five-stroke lead.
But Mickelson’s compound ride around the treacherous Ocean Course on Kiawah Island would turn into about an hour of chaos, as he looked like he was about to play his way out of the tournament.
Mickelson found inner peace – or relied on nearly 30 years of top-level performance – to right the ship in time, rallying with five closing pars to take a one-stroke lead over Brooks Koepka in the last round of Sunday. Koepka had briefly equaled Mickelson at the top of the standings, but bogeyed the 18th hole as Mickelson calmly ended his day.
If Mickelson, who turns 51 next month, maintains that advantage in the final round, he will become the oldest golfer to win a major championship, taking the record from Julius Boros, who was 48 when he won the championship. PGA 1968. A victory on Sunday would be Mickelson’s sixth major victory, which only 13 other male golfers have achieved.
“Tomorrow I just want to stay pretty calm and focused and visualize every shot, and if I can do that I can have the performance I want,” Mickelson said after shooting a 70 under that left him seven cents. the normal. par for the championship. “It’s a great opportunity.”
Mickelson blamed a loss of focus for his missteps on the 12th and 13th holes on Saturday, which cost him three strokes and nearly derailed his round.
“I slipped on a few strokes, but saw a lot of progress mentally,” he said. “This is much better. You know, the goal is to have a chance tomorrow. “
Mickelson will be paired with Koepka on Sunday, while Louis Oosthuizen, who is only third at five under, and Kevin Streelman, at four, will be the penultimate group off the first tee.
On Saturday, Mickelson repeatedly stood still and thoughtful behind his golf ball. When he was finally getting ready for his next move, he often had a thin, relaxed smile on his face.
For little more than the first half of his turn, the absorbed deliberation led to spectacular results as Mickelson managed five holes to take a five-stroke lead on the field with eight holes to go.
Nothing in Mickelson’s recent performances would have predicted such a successful assault this week on the evil Ocean Course. Since missing the cup at last year’s US Open, his best result has been a tie for 21st. He has finished outside the top 50 nine times in other events.
Mickelson’s mini-collapse on Saturday, which included a tee shot under a golf cart perched on a sand dune, began on the 12th par-4 hole, where he hit his tee shot in a bunker and had to s ‘flaking sideways due to awkward lying. After his next shot landed 26 feet from the hole, he had to settle for a two-putt bogey.
That interval, after a series of pars and birds – and after below-average rounds of 70 and 69 in the first half of the tournament – seemed to bother Mickelson, despite his new relaxation techniques.
On the 13th tee, after Mickelson’s playing partner Oosthuizen slammed his ball into a swampy water hazard to the right of the hole, Mickelson followed suit. Worse for Mickelson, he felt that his tee shot had completely crossed the obstacle and that he had to re-tee with a penalty stroke. As his next shot bounced safely down the fairway, he counted as his third shot and led to a double bogey six – the first six Mickelson had recorded on any hole in the event.
Mickelson rallied with two starts, which offered a return to normal he needed. But then he hung his tee shot badly on the 16th par-5 and watched helplessly as he leapt through the thick native grass of the course. The ball came to rest next to the front tire of a golf cart parked on top of a mound of sand.
The cart was moved, and Mickelson struck, and he then found the green with his third stroke. His 12-foot birdie putt was hit too hard, however, and while he was hitting the hole, he was traveling so fast that he jumped over the cut and jumped.
A few minutes earlier, on the 16th green, Koepka had rolled in a birdie putt that tied him for the lead at seven under. His stay with Mickelson at first was brief, however; Koepka missed a normal 6-foot putt on the 18th hole as his rival appeared.
“It was the worst putting performance I have ever had,” said Koepka, who has won four majors and two PGA championships since 2017. “The only way to look at it is, it can’t be. be worse. “
As Koepka was on his way to a bogey at 18, Mickelson, at the 17th par 3, the most intimidating spot on the course, punched an impressive iron off the tee within 17 feet of the cup. He settled for par when his birdie putt sank just to the left of the hole, but on the last hole of the day, although he missed the green to the left, he nearly passed 65 feet. His 5-foot par rolled around the edge of the cut but fell for his last par.
Mickelson opened Saturday’s round by slicing his first tee shot into a tee shot so thick that his junior and brother Tim couldn’t find the ball even standing just eight feet away. Fans nearby have pointed this out. When Phil Mickelson later arrived at the scene and watched his prom, he laughed.
But after a long pause with his eyes closed as he visualized the coming shot, he managed to wedge the ball onto the green and achieve a stable par. Mickelson then birdied the second par 5 and the third par 4, where his tee shot came to rest 2 feet from the hole. He added birdies on the sixth hole, where he putt 16 feet, and the seventh, where he rolled his 5 foot ball.
A precise 118-yard corner on the 10th hole left Mickelson with a 6-foot putt. He was already walking to retrieve it before it disappeared into the hole moments later, much to the roaring gallery’s delight.