SHANGHAI (AP)—Phil Mickelson was unwinding from a day of high energy and quickturnarounds, one that took him from a two-shot deficit against Tiger Woods to atwo-shot lead over the final eight holes Saturday in the HSBC Champions.
In the quiet of the clubhouse dining room, he marveled at how much thecrowds have grown in the three years he has been coming to SheshanInternational. And he could only imagine what it would be like Sunday, when heplayed in the final group with Woods for the first time in more than four years.
Then he smiled and raised his glass in a mock toast.
“And he’s got to give me one shot a side,” Mickelson said.Ryan Moore of the United State…
AP - Nov 7, 5:31 am EST
A rivalry that was renewed six weeks ago in Atlanta continued halfway aroundworld in China when Woods stalled with pars and Mickelson poured in threebirdies over his last five holes for a 5-under 67 and a two-shot lead over Woodsand Nick Watney in the final World Golf Championship of the year.
“I know we are both looking forward to it,” said Mickelson, who was at14-under 202. “I think it will be a fun day, and we are excited to be playingin the last group here in China.”
It will be the first time the world’s top two players have been in the finalgroup since their Duel at Doral in 2005, when Woods rallied from a two-shotdeficit in the final round to win by one.
Woods wasn’t terribly pleased to be in this position. He took his firstoutright lead of the tournament with a 15-foot birdie putt on the eighth hole.After another 15-foot birdie putt on the 10th, his lead was up to two.
That turned out to be his last birdie of the round. He missed oneopportunity on the par-5 14th, badly missed on a 6-foot birdie putt on the 16thand finished his round by driving into the rough and hitting his approach intothe bunker on the par-5 18th, having to save par for a 2-under 70.
“I didn’t putt as well as I did the first two days,” said Woods, whoopened with 67-67. “And the back nine, I didn’t take advantage of the par 5sand 16. I hit it in there stiff and missed that one as well. Consequently, I wasthree shots worse.”
Not to be forgotten is Watney, who completes this All-American—for thatmatter, all-Californian—final group. After a three-putt bogey on the 17th, the28-year-old sank a 50-foot eagle on the 18th for a 70 to join Woods at 12-under204.
“I suppose I’m kind of the odd man out there,” Watney said. “But the goalin golf is always to improve, and tomorrow will be a big step for me. Regardlessof the outcome, I’ll get a chance to watch these guys and see how they handlethemselves, and hopefully, I can handle myself well, too.”
Ryan Moore , who qualified for the HSBC Champions by winning for the firsttime on the PGA Tour in August, had a 70 and was another shot back. LeeWestwood , who is leading the Race to Dubai on the European tour, did himself ahuge favor with eight birdies in a round of 65, leaving him well in the mix at10-under 206.
“This is a golf course that you can make up a lot of shots over a round,”Westwood said.
Mickelson didn’t have that many to make up in the third round, starting onlyone shot behind and briefly sharing the lead on a couple of occasions with threebirdies in the opening five holes. His lone bogey came on the ninth, and eventhen he found a positive.
Trapped against the bushes, Lefty had to invert a wedge to play right-handedback to the fairway. It reminded him of the 12th hole at Doral in March, when healso played a right-handed shot on his way to winning his first World GolfChampionship.
“I thought that might have been a good omen, even though it led to abogey,” Mickelson said.
Mickelson came to life with a lob wedge into the strong wind to 6 feet onthe 14th, then smashing a tee shot so far on the 487-yard 15th that it wentthrough the fairway and left him only a 9-iron, which he hit to 15 feet. Hepumped his fist when the birdie putt fell, giving Mickelson his first outrightlead of the week.
He hustled across the street toward the 16th tee and said in a singsongvoice, “Somebody’s got his putter back.” He is still gleaming from going backto his old style of putting, which carried him to victory in the TourChampionship six weeks ago and helped him to an unbeaten record in thePresidents Cup.
It has taken him to another chapter in the best rivalry of this generation,one that Woods still owns.
They were paired this year at the Masters, where both lit up AugustaNational with birdies until they ran out of holes, having started too far offthe lead. Mickelson won a tournament the last time they played together in afinal round, at the 2007 Deutsche Bank Championship (although they weren’t inthe final group).
Woods has attracted the largest crowds, but not by much. And with themseparated by only one group, there was hardly an empty space along the ropesover two holes.
Woods was asked if he was excited about a potential battle between No. 1 andNo. 2.
“Yeah,” he said. “We are right there. Unfortunately, I’m two back. Butit’s just one of those things where Nick and I have got a chance tomorrow, andwe’re going to have to go out there and obviously play well.”