Duel on tap today
Mickelson is up by 2 on Woods
SHANGHAI - Phil Mickelson was unwinding from a day of high energy and quick turnarounds, one that took him from a two-shot deficit against Tiger Woods to a two-shot lead over the final eight holes in the third round of the
In the quiet of the clubhouse dining room, he marveled at how much the crowds have grown in the three years he has been coming to Sheshan International. And he could only imagine what it would be like today, when he plays in the final group with Woods for the first time in more than four years.
Then he smiled and raised his glass in a mock toast.
“And he’s got to give me one shot a side,’’ Mickelson said.
A rivalry that was renewed six weeks ago in Atlanta continued halfway around the world in China when Woods stalled with pars and Mickelson poured in three birdies over his last five holes for a 5-under 67 and a two-shot lead over Woods and Nick Watney in the final World Golf Championship event of the year.
“I know we are both looking forward to it,’’ said Mickelson, who was at 14-under 202.
It will be the first time the world’s top two players have been in the final group since their Duel at Doral in 2005, when Woods rallied from a two-shot deficit in the final round to win by one.
Woods wasn’t terribly pleased to be in this position. He took his first outright lead of the tournament with a 15-foot birdie putt on the eighth hole. After another 15-foot birdie putt on the 10th, his lead was up to two.
That turned out to be his last birdie of the round. He missed one opportunity on the par-5 14th, badly missed on a 6-foot birdie putt on the 16th, and finished his round by driving into the rough and hitting his approach into the bunker on the par-5 18th, having to save par for a 2-under 70.
“I didn’t putt as well as I did the first two days,’’ said Woods, who opened with 67-67. “And the back nine, I didn’t take advantage of the par 5s and 16. I hit it in there stiff and missed that one as well. Consequently, I was three shots worse.’’
Not to be forgotten is Watney, who completes this all-American - for that matter, all-Californian - final group. After a three-putt bogey on the 17th, the 28-year-old sank a 50-foot eagle on the 18th for a 70 to join Woods at 204.
“I suppose I’m kind of the odd man out there,’’ Watney said. “But the goal in golf is always to improve, and tomorrow will be a big step for me.
“Regardless of the outcome, I’ll get a chance to watch these guys and see how they handle themselves, and hopefully, I can handle myself well, too.’’
Mickelson’s lone bogey came on the ninth, and even then he found a positive.
Trapped against the bushes, Lefty had to invert a wedge to play righthanded back to the fairway. It reminded him of the 12th hole at Doral in March, when he also played a righthanded shot on his way to winning his first World Golf Championship.
“I thought that might have been a good omen, even though it led to a bogey,’’ Mickelson said.
Mickelson came to life with a lob wedge into a strong wind to 6 feet on the 14th, then smashed a tee shot so far on the 487-yard 15th that it went through the fairway and left him only a 9-iron, which he hit to 15 feet. He pumped his fist when the birdie putt fell, giving him his first outright lead of the week.