23 May 2021 | Professional golf |

Mickelson chasing history at Kiawah

by PGA of Australia

Phil Mickelson R3 PGA image
Phil Mickelson tees off at the third today, with the crowd in awe. Photo: Getty

By Tony Webeck

Queensland’s Cameron Smith displayed all the hallmarks that make him a major champion in waiting but it is 50-year-old Phil Mickelson who is chasing a slice of history at the US PGA Championship at Kiawah Island Resort.

On another difficult day for scoring at Kiawah’s brutal Ocean Course played in a different wind direction and where only six players broke 70, even-par rounds by Jason Scrivener and Jason Day were the best that the six Aussies who made the cut could manage.

Smith fought back late to post 1-over 73 and remain the highest-placed Australian with one round to play.

Starting the day in a tie for 25th, Smith made a steady start to his third round. He had birdie chances from long range at three, four and five without being able to get one to drop and then dropped a shot at the par-4 sixth after tangling with Kiawah’s gnarly rough on both sides of the fairway.

An uncharacteristic miss from inside five feet led to another dropped shot at the par-4 ninth but two late birdies rescued a round that could very easily have gotten away from him. The 27-year-old made a putt from just inside 12 feet to pick up a birdie at the 215-yard par-3 14th and then played the par-5 16th to perfection, two spectacular shots to 55 feet followed by a pitch to four feet making the 606-yard journey seem a breeze.

As Smith held his round together Mickelson was extending his advantage at the top of the leaderboard as he seeks to become the oldest winner in major championship history. Starting the day tied with South African Louis Oosthuizen at 5-under par, Mickelson was 9-under by the turn thanks to birdies at two, three, six and seven.

He was 10-under and leading by five when he added a fifth birdie at the par-4 10th but a dropped shot at 12 and back-to-back birdies by Oosthuizen reduced the margin to two in the blink of an eye.

The tournament was turned on its head when both players found the water with their tee shots at No.13 as Mickelson made double and when the pair both missed birdie chances at 14 the five-time Major champion held a one-stroke advantage over Oosthuizen and Brooks Koepka.

As Mickelson faltered Koepka surged, picking up shots at 10, 12 and 16 to snare a share of the lead before bogeying the final hole to sit one back of Mickelson in his pursuit of a fifth Major since the 2017 US Open.

Playing the weekend of a Major for the first time, Jason Scrivener spent the majority of the opening hole in waste bunkers as he began his third round with a bogey but bounced back with consecutive birdies at two and three.

The West Australian two-putted for birdie from 33 feet at the par-5 second and then dropped a bomb from 44 feet to pick up another shot at the 376-yard third.

Bogeys at five, eight and nine meant that Scrivener went out in 2-over and was losing ground to the field but displayed impressive composure in just his second Major championship to play the difficult back nine in 2-under.

He made birdie for the third day in succession at the par-5 11th and then fired a wedge from 101 yards into seven feet at the 606-yard par-5 16th and made the putt.

In what has been a difficult period there were positive signs too for Jason Day.

Needing to finish inside the top-20 to rise up into the top 60 in the World Golf Rankings and qualify for next month’s US Open, Day’s short game was a feature in his round of even par 72, a lone bogey at the par-4 first offset by a birdie from 22 feet at the par-5 16th.

Hitting 10 of 18 greens in regulation, Day successfully got up-and-down seven times and made a number of crucial par saves from six and seven feet as he advanced 12 spots up the leaderboard on day three.

A double-bogey due to some misadventures in a waste bunker on the par-4 13th was the sour note in Matt Jones’ third round of 2-over 74 that saw him fall into a tie for 60th with one round to play.

After opening with six straight pars Jones fired a brilliant shot from 230 yards into seven feet for a two-putt birdie at the par-5 seventh but gave that shot back with a three-putt birdie from 56 feet at the par-4 ninth.

With the double at 13 and another dropped shot at 14 Jones dropped to 3-over on his round but a wedge from 116 yards to inside four feet set up a birdie at the par-5 16th and some positive momentum to take into Sunday.

A birdie from 12 feet at the first was the perfect start for Sydney’s Cameron Davis but a lost ball on the next tee and resulting double bogey took his trajectory in the opposite direction, struggling to hit fairways (seven of 14) and greens (eight of 18) in a third round of 4-over 76. It was a difficult day too for Victorian Lucas Herbert, thanks in no small part to a double bogey at the first, the highlight a birdie from 35 feet at the par-4 third in his round of 5-over 77. US PGA Championship Through 54 holes T33 Cameron Smith 72-73-73—218 T45 Jason Scrivener 73-75-72—220 T51 Jason Day 74-75-72—221 T58 Matt Jones 73-75-74—222 T68 Cam Davis 69-78-76—223 T75 Lucas Herbert 76-72-77—225

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