Better putting has Mickelson back in contention

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PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – It’s been a while since Phil Mickelson was in contention, but the veteran is glad to be back in what was once a familiar position.

Mickelson completed 26 holes on a marathon day at PGA National and heads into Monday’s finish of the Honda Classic in a tie for fourth, three shots behind co-leaders Paul Casey and Ian Poulter.

“It’s fun, it’s fun to feel the pressure and to be in it,” Mickelson said. “It was a fun day today. We got a lot of golf in. The course is in great shape. You know, looking forward to tomorrow.”

Mickelson began the final round six shots behind Poulter, but after playing eight holes in 1 under, he cut his deficit in half. He faces a 10-foot putt for par on No. 9 to remain at 4 under when play resumes Monday at 8 a.m. ET.

“I told [caddie Jim Mackay] walking up the fairway I wanted to try to slow play to get the siren to go off so that I could putt tomorrow,” Mickelson said. “But I was hoping that was a birdie putt. Instead, it’s a putt for par.”

Mickelson’s lone top-10 finish on the PGA Tour since the start of the 2013-14 season came at last year’s PGA Championship, where he was runner-up, and he missed the cut in consecutive weeks in his two most recent starts. While those early exits were the product of some poor putting, Mickelson is eighth in strokes gained putting this week at PGA National – thanks in large part to an assist from Mackay.

“I’ve had a great week on the greens,” he said. “I’ve made a lot of great putts, and Bones has been reading them better. This has been one of his best weeks for green reading. They are very tough, tricky to read. I’m having a hard time, but Bones has been great.

Monday’s finish means Mickelson faces plenty of golf in the coming days. He plans to head to Augusta National on Tuesday for a practice round with Ben Crane, Rickie Fowler and Brooks Koepka, and Thursday he'll be at Trump National Doral in Miami for the first round of the WGC-Cadillac Championship.

While he still has nine holes left on the Champion Course, Mickelson also confirmed that he will still tee it up later in the day in the member-pro at nearby Seminole Golf Club, an event that annually boasts a field full of elite PGA Tour pros.

“We’ll take a cart depending on what time we get, but we have like the last tee time,” he said. “I’ll probably go over there and play. It’s fun. So we’ll finish up like 10:30 or 11, and then I’ll tee off in the afternoon.”