Mon, Mar 07, 2005 - Page 19 News List

Phil Mickelson suddenly has a Tiger on his tail


Phil Mickelson continued to bully the Blue Monster with a 6-under 66 and Tiger Woods put on a dynamic charge with a 9-under 63 Saturday to leave him only two shots behind after the third round of the Ford Championship.

The performances by two of golf's most popular players will pit the pair against one another in the final group on Sunday, their first head-to-head showdown in two years.

"We both know we're going to have to make a bunch of birdies," Woods said.

Woods overwhelmed the back nine with his power, no shot more memorable than when he drove the green on the 347-yard 16th, ending 45 feet from the pin for a two-putt birdie.

Mickelson was at 20-under 196, the 10th consecutive round in stroke play he has been atop the leaderboard.

Zach Johnson, who had to pull out of the pro-am with a bad back, shot a 64 and was six shots behind at 14-under 202, along with James Driscoll (67) and defending champion Craig Parry (67).

Vijay Singh couldn't keep pace with a 68 and was seven shots behind, joined by two-time Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal (70) and former US Open champion Jim Furyk (67).

But the attention was on Woods and Mickelson, who last played in the final group at the 2003 Buick Invitational. Woods went on to win by four, with Mickelson six shots behind.

On Saturday, Woods had six birdies, finishing his round with an 8-footer on the 18th and in a television interview wished happy birthday to his father, Earl, who turned 73 on Saturday.

With blue skies, warm sunshine and leaderboard packed with the best players in golf, the galleries packed the Doral Golf Resort and Spa-Blue Course, standing six deep at the putting green.

They were rewarded with play such as Mickelson's perfectly judged a wedge out of the rough that hopped forward to 6 feet for birdie on No. 5, the start of three in a row. Mickelson led between four and five shots for much of the round.

Woods became a big part of it with tremendous shots along the back nine.

He hammered his 3-wood about 270 yards just over the flag, setting up an easy up-and-down for birdie from just off the green at 10. With another big 3-wood, this one from 262 yards into a stiff breeze, Woods became the first player all week to reach the 603-yard 12th hole in two for another birdie.

Then came the 16th, where the tees were moved up 25 yards to tempt players to drive the green.

Woods didn't realize he reached the green until he was halfway up the fairway.

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