Mickelson Stays on Top Furyk Fades

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2007 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-AmPEBBLE BEACH, Calif. --The conditions were the toughest Phil Mickelson has faced in eight months, a day of survival when it was important to keep the ball in play and keep big numbers off the scorecard.
 
That's the kind of language often used at the U.S. Open.
 
Phil Mickelson
Phil Mickelson is looking for his first PGA TOUR win since last year's Masters. (WireImage)
This was only the wet, cold, windy and miserable Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, where patience is tested not because of 6-inch rough but six-hour rounds. The similarity Saturday was Mickelson tied for the lead going into the final round, the first time he's been in that position since last summer at Winged Foot.
 
All he has to do now is write a better ending, although redemption didn't even cross his mind.
 
'I don't really think in those terms,' Mickelson said. 'I would like to get off to a good start this year, and I love playing this tournament, having won it a couple of times. It would be nice to get momentum on the West Coast.'
 
Mickelson made only two small errors at Spyglass Hill and shot a 2-under 70, putting him at 14-under 202. He was tied with Kevin Sutherland, who birdied the last hole at Poppy Hills and also found himself in a familiar spot.
 
It was the second time in three weeks he birdied the last hole to get into the final round. And it was the second time all the focus was on somebody else. He had Tiger Woods in the group ahead of him at Torrey Pines. Now he gets Mickelson at his side at Pebble Beach.
 
'That's to be expected,' Sutherland said. 'I'm playing well right now. I'm shooting scores that I should be shooting given the way I'm playing, so I feel good about tomorrow.'
 
John Mallinger, a 27-year-old rookie, had a 68 at Poppy and was one shot behind.
 
Mickelson is perfecting his swing by the day, and what helped this week was the perfect rotation of courses. He played Pebble Beach on Friday, the only day the wind didn't blow much, and shot 67.
 
Sutherland opened with a 72 at Pebble Beach on Thursday and rallied at Spyglass and Poppy.
 
Jim Furyk had to take on rain that fell sideways in 20 mph gusts at Pebble Beach on Saturday, and it was costly. He hit a fairway metal for his second shot on the par-4 10th over the cliffs and took double bogey, and wound up with a 76, six shots behind.
 
'A tough day to be at Pebble,' he said. 'I could have done a lot better job. I have a lot of work to do tomorrow.'
 
More 'Crosby' weather was in the forecast for Sunday, and that was OK with Mickelson. While he has started slowly this year after a four-month layoff, he is most pleased with the ease in hitting draws, fade and low, piercing tee shots.
 
The key if the weather gets bad is to drive the ball well,' he said. 'You have to put the ball in place because from the rough or the bunkers, you're just fighting for par the whole time. I'm actually really excited about my chances. I've been driving it better than I think I ever have, and I'm excited about putting it to the test here.'
 
Aiding his chances are the limited number of contenders.
 
The 42-year-old Sutherland plays his best golf in his native California, but his only PGA TOUR victory came five years ago down the coast at La Costa in the Accenture Match Play Championship.
 
He was one shot out of the lead going into the last round at the Buick Invitational, but closed with a 74 and tied for 14th.
 
Mallinger, making only his eighth career start on the PGA TOUR and his fourth this year, made his first bogey of the week by missing a 3-foot par putt on his 15th hole, then went birdie-bogey-birdie to give himself a chance.
 
Some big names are atop the leaderboard, but they have a lot of ground to cover.
 
Davis Love III shot 70 at Spyglass and Corey Pavin shot 67 at Pebble Beach. They were tied for fourth at 9-under 207. Vijay Singh was poised to move a little closer to the top until hitting a tee shot into the ocean, another shot over the corporate boxes on the 18th at Pebble Beach and making double bogey to shoot 71. He was eight shots behind, along with Tom Watson, who had a 72 at Spyglass.
 
Furyk knew what he was in for when he arrived on the putting green and the wind was already rustling through the Monterey pines. Once he got out to the six holes along the Pacific, the flags were bending at a 90-degree angle and trouble was waiting on every miss.
 
He didn't miss many, except for the putts. Furyk hit the ball so clean that he gave himself birdie putts inside 18 feet five times in the first seven holes, finally converting after hitting a 7-iron from 106 yards on the downhill seventh.
 
Furyk was even par, two shots behind, when he hit a pedestrian drive on the 451-yard 10th and had a 3-wood left into a strong wind coming into him and off the ocean on the right. It hung over the cliffs and stayed there, dropping into a sandy area next to a fence. He wound up with double bogey, then dropped two more shots as the weather got worse.
 
Divots
Bill Murray gave tournament director Ollie Nutt a scare on the first tee. He asked for quiet, then informed the gallery that this would be his last appearance in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. After setting up over his ball, he looked back up and added, 'As an amateur.' Then he ripped one down the middle as the crowd roared. ... The celebrity presence at the AT&T was best defined by a marshal on the 14th fairway. There was laughter and cheering ahead on the 15th tee, and he was asked who was in the group ahead. 'Kevin Costner, Don Cheadle and ... I'm not sure who the other two guys are,' he said. Those would have been the PGA TOUR players, Dean Wilson and D.J. Trahan. OK, so they're not household names, but still. ... Tom Watson is eight shots behind, but still happy over one goal -- he and son Michael made the pro-am cut and are tied for second.
 
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