Phil Mickelson drew the loudest cheers from the biggest crowd in golf history Saturday at the Phoenix Open.
Mickelson nearly aced the par-3 16th, hitting a 9-iron to a foot to set up a birdie on the rowdy stadium hole packed with nearly 20,000 screaming fans.
“What’s funny about that is 172 yards is a very tough 9-iron for me to get there, but I immediately take 5 yards off and in my head I had 167,” Mickelson said. “The reason is you always have a little bit of adrenaline here, and the ball goes a little bit longer …
“I played for a 167-yard shot and tried to hit just a comfortable or stock 9-iron, and the ball ended up flying that far and released to the hole. Having played this course and that hole over the years and knowing what your body does and how to adjust to it has helped me, and certainly it did today.”
Estimated at 179,022, the third-round crowd broke the record of 173,210 set last year, also on a Saturday at fan-friendly TPC Scottsdale. The event has drawn 467,030 fans for the week and is in position to break the mark of 538,356 set in 2008.
Mickelson birdied the final four holes and five of the last six for a 7-under-par 64. It gave him a three-round total of 24-under 189 and a six-stroke lead over Brandt Snedeker. Another two shots back at 16 under were Puyallup’s Ryan Moore (65) and Irishman Padraig Harrington (63).
“I know how good Snedeker is and how hot he can get with a putter,” Mickelson said. “He can make birdie from just about anywhere. He’s going to make a run tomorrow. I, hopefully, will be able to keep pace.”
Mickelson, a 42-year-old former Arizona State star, has led after each round. He opened with a 60, and shot a 65 on Friday, falling one stroke short of the tour record for the first 54 holes but matching the tournament mark set by Mark Calcavecchia in 2001.
Making his 24th appearance in the event that he won in 1996 and 2005, Mickelson is trying to complete his third wire-to-wire victory and first since the 2006 BellSouth Classic — a 13-stroke blowout the week before the second of his three Masters victories.
He’s also in position to match the tournament record of three victories set by Arnold Palmer and matched by Gene Littler and Calcavecchia. Mickelson won the last of his 40 PGA Tour titles 51 weeks ago at Pebble Beach.
Snedeker had a 65 to reach 18 under. He tied for second Monday at Torrey Pines, four strokes behind Tiger Woods in the fog-delayed event.
SCOT TOPS IN DUBAI
Stephen Gallacher shot a 10-under 62 for a three-shot lead over second-round leader Richard Sterne (66) at the Dubai Desert Classic in the United Arab Emirates.
The 111th-ranked Scotsman, who finished second last year in Dubai, is looking for his first European Tour win since 2004. He holed a bunker shot on 18 for an eagle to finish with a 21-under total of 195. That broke Tiger Woods’ 12-year-old tournament mark by a shot and just missed tying the course record of 61 set in 1994 by Ernie Els.
TEENAGERS TIED FOR FIRST
Sixteen-year-old Australian amateur Oh Su-hyun shot an 8-under 64 to tie 17-year-old Thai golfer Ariya Jutanugarn (65) at 10-under 134 for the second-round lead of the Australian Ladies Masters in Gold Coast, Australia.