Still, Mickelson likes his chances. And, who can argue with the way he's played down the stretch this year? In addition to his breakthrough win at Augusta National, Lefty finished second at the U.S. Open and third at the British Open.
Now, he's in good shape to become the first player to finish in the top three in all four majors in the same year. The fact that he'll be playing in the second-to-last group doesn't hurt. He played in the final group at the Masters and in the second-to-last group at the U.S. and British Opens.
'I'll get a chance to go out ahead of them and try to put some pressure on,' said Mickelson, who posted a pair of 67s around an even-par 72.
He is confident he can go lower.
'I think so. I think today's round was really close,' he said. 'I think the back side, I had a couple of chances to really make a special round and just came up one or two shots shy.'
Mickelson got some help in moving into a prime tee time Sunday. Darren Clarke, Briny Baird, Ernie Els and Stephen Ames all dropped shots over the final holes enabling Mickelson to move past them in the final-round pairings.
He's tied for third at 8 under with Els, Ames, Clarke and Chris Riley.
Now, if he can only get a little help from Whistling Straits, which has yet to live up to its name.
'I would like to see it blow 20-30 knots,' Mickelson said after his third round that included six birdies - five on the front side - and just one bogey. 'That would be my ideal situation. I'd still have to shoot under par, but if its like it was today, I may go 6, 7, 8 under and it may not be enough..'
Billed as the longest course (7,514 yards) in majors history, this links-style layout on the shores of Lake Michigan has been a real softy this week. The forecast for Sunday is for sunny skies, temperatures in the 70s and more gentle breezes.
'If we don't have more adverse conditions, it will be tough to catch the leaders,' he said.
Mickelson started the third round at 3 under and birdied three of his first four holes. He kept the run going by knocking in a 40-foot putt - he thought it was 50 feet - for par at the dangerous par-5 fifth. That was a huge save for Mickelson, who thinned a 7-iron out of a bunker while trying to lay up on the hole named the 'Snake.'
On Friday, he needed four shots to reach the green and three-putted for a double-bogey 7.
'Yesterday I had a 50-footer for par as well and three-putted,' he said. 'Today, it went in, kept my momentum going and I birdied the next hole. That was a critical shot.'
Mickelson was 8 under after making the turn in 31, but his only birdie on the inward nine - at No. 16 - was ified by a bogey at 11.
'I got off to a great start, I was 5 under and thought if I could get to 10 that would be a great spot,' he said.
Mickelson would be closer to the lead if not for an even-par 72 on Friday. He was 3 under early in that round, but couldn't keep it going.
'You want to be in the lead,' he said. 'It's much easier having a couple of shots in hand than it is trying to chase because you don't have room for error. '
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