Phil Mickelson was locked in concentration over a 30-foot birdie putt on the par-3 16th, the some 20,000 onlookers mostly quiet on the amphitheater hole except a fan who screamed "Tiger would make it!"
Playing partner Bill Haas heard it, but Mickelson held his concentration before perfectly striking the putt that drew a thunderous cheer when it dropped.
“It’s Saturday of the Phoenix Open. It’s always fun,” Mickelson said.
The birdie and another on the short par-4 17th helped Mickelson cut his deficit to four strokes behind leader Tommy Gainey halfway through the frost-delayed event in Scottsdale, Ariz.
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“There’s a lot of golf left,” Mickelson said. “Even though it’s Saturday — it feels like it’s the third round ”
The former Arizona State star, the 1996 and 2005 winner at TPC Scottsdale, birdied six of the last 11 holes for a 6-under 65. He was 10 under for two rounds in the tournament that will end Monday because of long delays Thursday and Friday.
Gainey played nine holes Saturday, finishing off a 65 after shooting a career-best 63 on Friday.
“My ball-striking is really good,” Gainey said. “I hit a couple bad shots today, but (not) bad enough to get in any trouble. I always think that’s a good thing, because as we all know, golf is a game of misses, so my misses today were pretty good.”
Mark Wilson, 13 under, finished a 64 on Saturday.
“Everything just flowed good today,” Wilson said. “I felt very calm.”
Haas was 12 under after his second 65. He lost a playoff two weeks ago in the Bob Hope Classic, then tied for ninth at Torrey Pines after fading in the final round.
Rickie Fowler — dressed head to toe in bright green as part of title sponsor Waste Management’s “Green Out” — had a 62 to join Mickelson at 10 under.
Fowler tied the course back-nine record with a 7-under 29. He eagled the par-5 13th, holing an 8-footer after a 329-yard drive and 220-yard, 5-iron approach, and birdied the 16th after nearly making a hole-in-one.
“I saw some of the scoreboards and knew that I was around the cut line early on and basically had to step on the gas and get going,” said Fowler. “I love this tournament.”
The third round started late Saturday afternoon and only 48 of the 74 players who made the cut teed off before play was suspended because of darkness.
The U.S. Open will rely more on world ranking to determine which players are exempt from qualifying, inviting players in the top 50 on both May 23 and June 13 to the event at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md., June 19-16.
In 2012, the USGA will exempt players in the top 60 in the world ranking.
Denmark’s Thomas Bjorn shot a 6-under 66 to take a one-shot lead into the final round of the Qatar Masters in Doha. Germany’s Martin Kaymer, who had a 68, is 10 shots back. He needs to finish second to move up to No. 1 in the world ranking. Taiwan’s Yani Tseng shot a 5-under 68 to take a three-stroke lead into the final round of the Women’s Australian Open in Melbourne.