Mickelson and Olin Browne share the 54-hole lead in Pebble Beach, Calif., at 14-under-par. The duo leads last year's runner-up, Vijay Singh, by two shots. Mickelson made his way to the top of the leaderboard by firing a six-under-par 66 at Pebble, while Browne tied the low round of the day, a seven-under-par 65 at Poppy Hills.
Overnight leader Matt Gogel followed his second-round 62 with a third-round 81 at Spyglass. He'll now need a Tiger-esque comeback to avenge last year's bitter defeat. For that matter, so too will Woods.
Tiger kept alive his hopes of becoming the first person since Mark O'Meara in 1990 to successfully defend his title by shooting a three-under-par 69 at Pebble Beach. Woods stands at eight-under-par for the tournament, six shots off the lead. Last year, he trailed by five with 18 holes to play.
Tiger stumbled out of the blocks on Saturday, bogeying his first two holes; including the short par-five second.
'I hit a great drive and then quick-sniped my second shot,' Woods said of his bogey on the second hole. 'I hit my third into the bunker and didn't get up and down.'
Woods collected his first birdie of the day at the par-three fifth, and then earned No. 2 at the sixth. At that point, he stood at five-under-par, where he remained until successive birdies at the 13th and 14th holes.
Woods officially climbed to within striking distance by carding his third birdie in five holes at the 17th. And with the par-five 18th remaining, it appeared certain as if he would enter the clubhouse at nine-under.
However, it wasn't to be. Woods' three-foot birdie putt made a horseshoe around the cup. Despite the missed opportunity, Tiger left the course knowing he was still in contention.
'I got a shot at it, but that last putt leaves a bad taste in my mouth,' said Woods. 'It's been like that all year. It's indicative of how my entire year's been so far.'
Putting has been Tiger's Achilles heel in 2001. He says, this week, it's not so much the stroke as it is the surface.
'I feel like I'm hitting it good,' Woods said. 'You just have to get the right bounces on the greens for the ball to fall.'
Woods knows, unlike in the third round, he'll have to get off to a good start on Sunday if he wants to catch the leaders. Knowing Tiger's history, he's still in it. Knowing Gogel's, he's not.
As he did in the final round in 2000, Gogel recorded a back-nine 40 on Saturday. However, unlike that of a year ago, he didn't post 31 on the front, but rather a 41.
Gogel's day at Spyglass began with a bogey at the par-five first. Following two more dropped shots at the fourth and sixth holes, disaster struck at the seventh.
Playing the par-five, Gogel's second-shot lay-up came dangerously close to a hazard. Gogel decided to play his third shot from the water's edge, but chunked it. This time, he was wet. He eventually made a double-bogey seven.
Gogel's misfortune wasn't delegated to the front nine. He lost four more strokes to par on the inward half, including a bogey at the last.
'I just didn't have it today,' said Gogel, who graciously signed autographs before leaving the course. 'It happens to everybody. You just take it on the chin. More good will eventually come than the bad in the short term.'
Though Gogel couldn't duplicate his second-round 62, Mickelson was able to mirror his Day-Two 66.
Once again, the putts fell for the lefty. Mickelson rolled in birdie putts of 15 feet on the third, 20 feet on the seventh and 35 feet on the ninth. In addition, he also stuck a few irons inside ten feet for four more birdies.
'What I have found is when putts fall in the hole I take a lot of pressure off my ball striking,' said Mickelson. 'I don't necessarily have to go for par-5s in two, I can wedge it up there in eight or 10 feet and make it.'
Mickelson is vying for his second Pebble Beach title in the last four years, but his first over 72 holes. In 1998, Mickelson won a 54-hole tournament in which the final round was postponed due to weather until August.
Browne doesn't share the same fondness for the Monterey Peninsula, as does Mickelson. Browne has missed five cuts in six prior starts. Of course, a bogey-free round of 65 can change one's opinion.
'I've never really liked playing here,' said Browne, whose only cut made resulted in a tie for 58th. 'It's a wonderful place, but the weather is so atrocious every year. It's such a joy to be here under these kinds of conditions. I'm loving every second of it this week.'
Browne's second round at Poppy Hills began with an eagle at the par-five 10th. Six straight pars ensued before he rolled in a 60-foot birdie putt at the par-three 17th.
'That was my gift today,' he said. 'Happy New Year!'
For the day, Browne recorded five birdies and one eagle. He played the five par-fives in five-under-par.
Standing in the shadows, as he often seems to do, is Singh. The reigning Masters champion posted a solid round of two-under-par 70 at Spyglass. It wasn't spectacular, but it has him in solo third place.
'I'm a little disappointed, but quite happy with the position,' Singh said. 'I'm looking forward to tomorrow. I think I will do well.'
Last year, Singh started the final round one off the lead, but was passed - like everyone else - by a surging Woods. Singh tied Gogel for second place after shooting a Sunday 70.
Four players are currently tied for fourth place at 11-under-par, including Mike Weir, who shot 65 at Poppy Hills, Jerry Kelly, who shot 68 at Poppy Hills, Ronnie Black, who shot 70 at Pebble Beach, and Craig Barlow, who shot 67 at Pebble Beach.
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