Sun, Mar 05, 2006 - Page 23 News List

Mickelson in three-way tie

AP , MIAMI, FLORIDA

Phil Mickelson tees off on the fifth hole during the second round of the Ford Championship at Doral in Doral, Florida, on Friday. Mickelson is 13-under-par after the second round and is tied for the lead with Scott Verplank and Camilo Villegas.

PHOTO: AP

Phil Mickelson birdied two of his last three holes for a 6-under 66 Friday, earning him share of the lead after two rounds of the Ford Championship at Doral and a Saturday pairing with Tiger Woods.

Woods settled for pars on his final four holes for a 5-under 67, giving him a 13-under 131 along with Mickelson, Scott Verplank and Colombia's Camilo Villegas.

The scores pitted Mickelson and Woods together in the final pairing Saturday, rekindling memories of last year's final round where Woods prevailed over the tense final holes.

"There are guys that are right there that are going to go out and make a lot of birdies, and it will be easy for them. They will have no pressure on them," Mickelson said. "It won't be ... anything like Sunday last year, where we're watching what each other is doing and trying to beat each other."

Nine players are within three shots of the lead.

Verplank, who shot 65, nearly holed a chip with his 5-wood from behind the 18th green that would have given him the outright lead, prompting a television reporter to suggest that he was imposing on the headline attractions Woods and Mickelson.

"Why do you say that?" Verplank said, knowing full well what he meant. I lost in a playoff a couple of years ago," Verplank said, toying with the reporter. "I know my way around this course pretty good. I beg to differ. We'll see what happens."

Villegas, the big-hitting rookie in pink pants, nearly made eagle on the par-5 eighth and joined the leaders with an 18-foot birdie putt on his final hole for a 66.

Two former PGA champions -- Davis Toms (66) and Rich Beem (67) -- were one shot behind, along with Mark Wilson (67). The group at 10-under 134 included Dean Wilson, Lucas Glover and Chad Campbell, who chipped in from 40 yards on the 17th.

Regardless, the spotlight will shine on two of the biggest names in golf, especially after last year, when Woods rallied from two shots behind, Mickelson made birdies to regain a share of the lead, and Woods won with a 30-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole.

Woods has said he enjoys such head-to-head battles, and Mickelson thinks he knows why.

"His record is a little better than mine," Mickelson said. "Of course he enjoys it."

Both started slowly in the pristine conditions of morning in Miami, with warm weather and barely a trace of a breeze. Woods reached the par-5 10th in two for a two-putt birdie, then wasted good birdie chances until a pitch from the rough short of the 16th green that stopped 6 feet away.

He birdied the 18th from the fringe, had an easy time for birdie with the par-5 first hole, then hit another chip from the rough on the short second hole that skipped to a stop 2 feet from the cup.

Woods was on his way to a comfortable margin until making his only bogey of the tournament, from the bunker left of the fourth green. He got the shot back with a wedge into 4 feet on the fifth, then made all pars.

Mickelson also sputtered around with pars, then hit a 4-wood to 8 feet from the cup for eagle at the par-5 eighth. He finished strong with a pitch to 8 feet on the 16th and a wedge to 3 feet on the 17th, converting both for birdies.

"We've got a long way to go," Woods said. "You've got to continue making birdies and see what happens. Right now, we're tied for the lead. By the end of the day, we may not be."

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