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Erratic Mickelson one ‘good round’ away from Riviera win
(Reuters) / 19 February 2012
If Phil Mickelson’s theory works out, he has got his two poor rounds out of the way and will push on to seal victory at the Northern Trust Open on Sunday.
The left-hander managed to stay at the top of the leaderboard as joint leader with fellow-American Keegan Bradley, despite not playing well in posting a one-under-par 70 on Saturday.
In pursuit of a second successive PGA Tour title, he hit his ball into and through trees but scrambled effectively to end a gorgeous afternoon of sunshine level with Bradley at seven-under 206.
Immediately after speaking to reporters, Mickelson returned to the practice range at Riviera Country Club to groove his swing for his bid to win back-to-back titles on the U.S. circuit for a fourth time.
“Usually when I win, I’ll have two good rounds and I’ll have two rounds that aren’t so great that I’ve got to keep somewhere in it to give myself a chance,” Mickelson said following scores of 66, 70 and 70.
“Yesterday and today I didn’t play the best. I wasn’t far off. I hit some good shots at times that didn’t quite turn out, but I was playing very defensive all day just trying to make pars. I’ll get it turned around.”
Before heading off to the range, Mickelson spoke on the phone to his swing coach Butch Harmon, who had already sent him a few text messages with advice.
“I’ll go hit some balls and get it turned around for tomorrow,” Mickelson said. “Today was a big day because if I didn’t fight hard and make pars from some of the places I was at, then I’d be trying to play catch up to a lot of guys.”
The four-times major winner was especially pleased with his par save at the driveable 315-yard 10th where his tee shot ended up well left of the green behind a Bottle Brush tree.
From there, he clipped a branch with a lob wedge and failed to reach the green in two, but struck a deft chip from a swale to three feet and coolly sank the putt.
“That was a good par because it’s still a tough up-and-down even down in that valley,” said Mickelson, popularly known as “Phil the Thrill” because of his bold playing style.
“I hit a good pitch into that bank three feet left and made it. That was a good one because where I was off the tee I was trying to make par.”
Mickelson, who fired a brilliant, final-round eight-under 64 to win last week’s Pebble Beach National Pro-Am by two shots, will be gunning for a 41st PGA Tour title on Sunday.
“Tomorrow is a big day for me,” said the 41-year-old Californian, who triumphed at Riviera in 2008 and 2009. “I’ve led all the way and I would like to do it to the finish.
“I love this golf course, I’m ready and I’m focused on tomorrow’s round. I’ve got a couple weeks off after it. I’m going to put everything I have into it to see if I can bring out some of my best golf.”
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