Phil Mickelson finally found a situation to tone down his attacking style.
With a dominant performance not seen on the Monterey Peninsula since Tiger Woods won the US Open, Mickelson blew away the field yesterday in the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am with a 5-under-par 67, giving him a seven-shot lead and a tournament record for the third straight day.
Despite 24 victories on the PGA Tour, Lefty has never had a lead this large.
"I don't want to do anything stupid," Mickelson said. "But I don't want to play defensive, either." Then again . . .
"With this many strokes, I also can take a few chances, too," Mickelson said with a playful grin. "Maybe I might hit driver in a certain spot that I wouldn't otherwise, because I'm OK if I happen to have a penalty shot or what have you. So it might lead to some different play. We'll see."
Either way, it appears his final round could be nothing more than a walk along the beach.
Mickelson rapped in a 5-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole at Pebble Beach to finish the three-course rotation at 20-under 196, breaking by two shots the 54-hole scoring record set by David Duval in 1997. All he needs to do today is shoot anything under par to break the 72-hole tournament record that Mark O'Meara set that year.
"Fabulous. It feels terrific," Mickelson said.
Only an eagle by Greg Owen kept Mickelson's lead from being even larger.
Owen, a 32-year-old from England who made it through all three stages of Q School last year, hit a 4-iron into 12 feet on the par-5 18th at Poppy Hills for a 67--203.
Mickelson's seven-shot lead is the largest on the PGA Tour since David Toms led by the same margin last year in Memphis. And it had the same feel as Woods's record-setting performance at Pebble in the 2000 US Open, when he took a 10-shot lead into the final round and won by 15. Two-time Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal had a 68 at Poppy Hills and was in a large group at 11-under 205 that included Kevin Sutherland, Paul Goydos, and Tim Clark. Vijay Singh, the world's No. 1 player, became the fourth straight defending champion to miss the cut at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. Singh had another 73 to finish at 3-over 219, ending his streak at 28 consecutive cuts. . . .
Finally, a close one that Bill Belichick didn't win. The Patriots coach teamed with Larry Mize to shoot a 10-under 67 at Pebble Beach, but they missed the team cut by virtue of a tiebreaker. Finishing 54 holes at 20-under 196, Belichick and Mize were tied for 25th with a handful of other teams in the pro-am. Only 25 teams make it into the final round and organizers go with the team whose pro has the low total. That turned out to be Jose Maria Olazabal (68--205, T-3). Mize is at 212.
LPGA/Ladies European Tour -- Catriona Matthew and Janice Moodie combined for a 4-under 69 playing alternate shot to help Scotland share the lead with Japan after the second round of the Women's World Cup in George, South Africa. Italy, which was atop the leaderboard with Canada after the first round, was one stroke back. South Korea was two shots behind after Jeong Jang and Bo Bae Song carded a 5-under 68.
The American team of Meg Mallon and Beth Daniel were three back after a 74. They shared that spot with Laura Davies and Karen Stupples of England (74), and Karrie Webb and Rachel Hetherington of Australia (75).
European PGA -- In Auckland, Oliver Wilson shot a 4-under 68 to take a one-stroke lead into the final round of the New Zealand Open. Wilson had a 17-under 199 total. Miles Tunnicliff was second after a 70.