ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – Next time, Phil Mickelson should wait until the end of his round to visit the concession stands at the British Open.
An errant tee shot that bounced into the hospitality area started a three-stroke slide Saturday afternoon, bringing a quick halt to a charge that could have put Lefty in the mix for his first claret jug. Mickelson’s 70 was still his best score of the week, but at 2-under for the tournament, there’s likely to be a big gap between him and the leaders going into Sunday’s final round.
“I’m disappointed in myself because I let a good round slide,” Mickelson said. “I let a good opportunity to get back into the tournament somewhat, to where a good round tomorrow could maybe get it done, I let it go and I’m disappointed in myself.”
After struggling the first two days at St. Andrews, the four-time major champion caused a small stir when he got on a roll Saturday. He was at 3 under for the day through 10 holes, then added another birdie on the 13th. His gallery, never small, swelled as fans realized Mickelson was working himself into contention.
But after scrambling to save par on 14 after putting his tee shot in a valley of rough so deep spectators couldn’t see the top of his head, Mickelson came undone with a double bogey on the par-4 16th.
He hooked a 5 iron off the 16th tee so badly the ball hit the road that runs along the right side of the hole and bounced into the big, grassy area that’s home to concession stands, the merchandise tent and sponsor delays. That, of course, is nowhere close to being inbounds.
“It was just a bad swing,” said Mickelson, whose best finish at the British Open was third at Troon in 2004. “I was trying to hit a low hook, and I hit it a little too quick.”
There was more trouble on 17, when Lefty’s approach shot flew the green and the road, landing in thick rough less than a foot from the old stone wall. Mickelson made a nice recovery, running it up within 15 feet, only to two-putt for bogey.
He did close the round with another birdie, but the damage was done.
“If I could have picked one up, finished at 5 or 6 (under), you just never know what’ll happen tomorrow,” Mickelson said.
Instead, he’ll likely be coming in right about the time the leaders are going off Sunday.