Mon, Aug 15, 2005 - Page 20 News List

Mickelson, Love share lead

AP , SPRINGFIELD, NEW JERSEY

Davis Love III of the US chips blasts out of a bunker toward the 18th green during the third round of the PGA Championship at Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, New Jersey, Saturday. Love and Phil Mickelson are tied for the lead at six strokes under.

PHOTO: EPA

Phil Mickelson was drenched in perspiration before he hit his opening tee shot in temperatures that hit 38 Celsius Saturday at the PGA Championship.

Then came the real heat.

Walking off the tee box, a cheer rang out from the 18th green as Thomas Bjorn got up-and-down for birdie to shoot 63, matching the record score for a major championship. In the group ahead, Mickelson could see Davis Love III birdie the first two holes on his way to a 68.

Just like that, the final major of the year turned into a shootout not many saw coming.

"We saw a lot of guys shoot under par," Mickelson said. ``I would have liked to have been one of them.''

Mickelson lost command of his tee shots and his putting, and he avoided a major meltdown by steadying himself for a 2-over 72 that left him tied with Love going into the final round at Baltusrol.

They were at 6-under 204 and had lots of company.

Bjorn's record-tying round gave him a chance for redemption in a major. Defending champion Vijay Singh made 17 straight pars before a birdie from the bunker on the 18th for a 69, leaving him two shots behind. And even Tiger Woods could no longer be ruled out after cutting his 12-shot deficit in half with a 66.

Mickelson missed short birdie putts on the final two holes, both par 5s, his last chance to keep the lead to himself ending with a 6-foot attempt that caused him to buckle his knees when the ball grazed the edge of the cup.

He still managed a smile.

"To gut it out and play the last 12 holes without a bogey, make that one birdie and still be in the lead is a huge success for the day," he said. "I struggled a little bit, but I fought hard to stay in the lead."

Love cooled after his start, trading birdies and bogeys the rest of the way for his third consecutive 68. Winless in two years, he wound up in the final pairing at a major for the first time since the 2003 British Open, where he tied for fourth at Royal St. George's.

"I'm playing with a lot of confidence, just like Phil," Love said. "That's why we're both on top of the leaderboard."

Bjorn became the 20th player to shoot 63 in a major, and the first since Singh in the 2003 US Open. It was the third 63 at Baltusrol, where Jack Nicklaus and Tom Weiskopf did it in the first round of the 1980 US Open.

"This 63 is not about records," Bjorn said. "It's about championships. And that's all it means to me, that I got myself into position where I can play from here. And I'm going to try my hardest tomorrow again, and then we'll see."

Singh was joined at 206 by former PGA champion Steve Elkington (68), Pat Perez (67) and Stuart Appleby (69).

"It was hard work," Singh said. "I told my caddie, `I need one birdie.' I cannot do 18 pars. I've never done that before, and I didn't want to do that today. That puts me in good shape tomorrow."

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