Mickelson seizes command at PGA in pursuit of historic win

Phil Mickelson hits his second shot on the 16th hole during the third round at the PGA Championship golf tournament on the Ocean Course on May 22, 2021, in Kiawah Island, South Carolina. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Phil Mickelson hits his second shot on the 16th hole during the third round at the PGA Championship golf tournament on the Ocean Course on May 22, 2021, in Kiawah Island, South Carolina. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
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Updated 23 May 2021

Mickelson seizes command at PGA in pursuit of historic win

Mickelson seizes command at PGA in pursuit of historic win
  • With a victory, Mickelson would break the major tournament age mark set by American Julius Boros, who was 48 when he won the 1968 PGA Championship

KIAWAH  ISLAND, USA: Fifty-year-old Phil Mickelson seized command Saturday at the PGA Championship, pulling to a four-stroke lead halfway into the third round as he tries to become golf’s oldest major winner.
The US left-hander birdied four of the first seven holes and made the turn at windy Kiawah Island after a four-under 32 on the front nine thanks to some sensational shotmaking.
Stunning approach shots in breezy conditions had Mickelson, who hasn’t managed a top-10 major finish since 2016, in a commanding position — and somewhat astonishing one — to claim a sixth major title.
With a victory, Mickelson would break the major tournament age mark set by American Julius Boros, who was 48 when he won the 1968 PGA Championship.
Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama and South Africans Louis Oosthuizen and Branden Grace shared a distant second on 5-under with US four-time major winner Brooks Koepka on 4-under.
Mickelson, who shared the lead with 2010 British Open winner Oosthuizen at 5-under when the day began, took the lead alone when the South African missed a six-foot par putt at the opening hole.
Mickelson dropped his approach at the par-5 second hole within 15 feet of the cup and two-putted for birdie to stretch his lead, then fired from sand to inches from the cup at the third to reach 7-under and boost his edge to three shots.
When Mickelson sank a birdie putt from just inside 17 feet at the sixth, his lead was four strokes.
Matsuyama, Koepka and Grace followed with birdies to trim the margin.
But Mickelson answered at the par-5 seventh by leaving a 21-foot eagle putt on the edge of the cup before nudging the ball in for birdie to reach 9-under.
Mickelson holed a four-footer to par the par-3 eighth and got up and down from sand to par the ninth to stay there.
Mickelson, a three-time Masters champion who won his lone PGA in 2005, has not won a major since the 2013 British Open.
His most recent US PGA Tour victory came in 2019 at Pebble Beach, although he won twice in 2020 on the 50-and-over Champions Tour.
Winds direction switched Saturday on the punishing Ocean Course, the longest layout in major history at 7,876 yards.
After blowing from the east all week, breezes were from the south on Saturday, creating tricky crosswinds, and were set to come from the west on Sunday, making every weekend hole on the coastal layout an all-new test.
“It changes the dynamic of the course,” three-time major winner Jordan Spieth said. “You go from just trying to hold on from dear life the last four to, hey, maybe I can grab a couple.”
Mickelson, ranked 115th, is the oldest player to hold a share of the 36-hole PGA lead since Sam Snead at 54 in 1966.
He became only the sixth player since 1900 to lead majors in four different decades, joining Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Snead, Ray Floyd and Gary Player.
Matsuyama made bogey at the third to fall back, but answered with back-to-back birdies and another at eight to reach 5-under.
The Japanese star seeks a rare major double, trying to become the first player to capture the opening half of a calendar Grand Slam since Spieth won the 2015 Masters and US Open.
Back-to-back birdies at seven and eight lifted Grace to 5-under alongside countryman Oosthuizen, who also birdied the eighth.
Koepka, seeking his third PGA title in four years, sandwiched birdies at the par-3 fifth and par-5 seventh around a bogey but closed the front nine with a bogey.
He’s playing through pain after undergoing right knee surgery in March.
Relatively calm conditions greeted early starters and Spieth, seeking a victory to complete a career Grand Slam, fired a four-under par 68 to finish on level par 216 alongside compatriot Rickie Fowler.
Three-time major winner Spieth snapped a four-year win drought last month.
Four-time major winner Rory McIlroy, who won the 2012 PGA at Kiawah, stumbled to a 74 to stand on 221.
The seventh-ranked Northern Ireland star, who snapped an 18-month win drought two weeks ago, has been 5-over on par-5 holes this week.
“I just haven’t played the par-5s well,” McIlroy said. “I need to do some other things better as well, but that certainly hasn’t happened.”
Sweden’s Alex Noren produced the first bogey-free round of the week, firing a 70 to stand on 219.