Phil Mickelson survived a sluggish start to post a five-under 65 and claim the third-round lead at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial on Saturday.
Mickelson, the world No. 2, started the day with a one-stroke lead, but fell back early with a bogey at the second hole.
He rallied, however, taking advantage of ideal scoring conditions to play the back nine in 31 strokes and finish his day with a flourish — a 17-foot birdie putt at the last that gave him a 12-under total of 198.
“It was tough to be patient watching guys shoot 4-or-5-under on the front nine and take off. All of a sudden I go from leading to being three or four shots back,” Mickelson said. “With the [lack of] wind, it played so much easier than the first two days. For the most part it was a day where you could go low and most guys did.”
After a par at the par-five first, Mickelson dropped a shot at No. 2 despite a massive tee shot that left him just 45 yards to the pin.
He righted the ship with a birdie at the sixth and nearly holed out for an eagle at nine.
Then he birdied five holes with just one bogey coming home.
Mickelson, who is playing at Colonial for the first time since 2005, was one shot in front of Australian Rod Pampling, who carded a 63 and Canadian Stephen Ames, who posted a 64 for 199.
South Africa’s Tim Clark was three shots adrift after a 64 for 201.
Pampling’s was the day’s best score, and he was on his way to something even lower before bogeys at 16 and 17, which he followed with a birdie at 18.
At the par-three 16th, Pampling’s seven-iron trickled over the green and he hit a poor chip, and a wayward drive cost him a shot at the next before a tap-in birdie at 18.
Ames lived up to his reputation as a shotmaker, nabbing six birdies without a bogey to keep himself in contention for a fourth US PGA Tour title.
“I made the same amount of birdies the first two days,” he said. “I putted very well, hit some good iron shots, which you’ve got to do out here if you are going to shoot that kind of number I guess.”
Mickelson, owner of 33 PGA Tour titles, said he expected a tough battle yesterday.
“The reality is, these guys are great players and playing very well,” Mickelson said. “There is a reason they are on top of the leaderboard because they are playing well this week. For me to come out on top, I have to somehow play better.”