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Saturday's golf: Phil Mickelson rides hot stretch to two-shot lead on Champions Tour

Associated Press

Jacksonville, Fla. — Phil Mickelson needed only three holes to go from lagging behind to seizing control with an eagle-birdie-birdie stretch that carried him to a 5-under 67 and a two-shot lead Saturday in the Constellation Furyk & Friends Invitational.

Making only his fourth PGA Tour Champions start — and second this year — Mickelson will be going after his third title on the 50-and-older circuit.

Phil Mickelson is in the hunt for his third win on the Champions Tour.

Miguel Angel Jimenez (65), Steve Flesch (66) and Matt Gogel (69) were two shots behind at Timuquana Country Club.

Flesch had run off three straight birdies when Mickelson took over.

First, he hit 7-iron to about 15 feet for eagle on the par-5 13th hole. Mickelson followed that with a 40-foot birdie putt across the green at the par-3 14th, and then he made birdie on the par-5 15th hole.

Mickelson made his lone bogey on the 16th hole, closed with two pars and finished the opening two rounds at 11-under 133.

“I felt like I was hitting some good shots on the front nine, but they weren’t quite going the right distance or just weren’t quite working out,” said Mickelson, who had only one birdie before making the turn.

“When I made that eagle putt, I went on a nice little tear,” he said. “I don’t know, I’m having a lot of fun. And I hit some good shots. With the exception of that one bad tee shot on 16 that led to bogey, I drove it pretty well, and that allowed me to play much more aggressively.”

Mickelson, who in May became the first player at age 50 to win a major at the PGA Championship, was among several top stars who played the tournament as a favor to Jim Furyk, the tournament host who has a pair of 69s and was five shots behind.

Three-time major champion Padraig Harrington, coming off a loss as Europe’s captain in the Ryder Cup, had a 75 and was at 5-over 149 in his PGA Tour Champions debut. He turned 50 at the end of August in the midst of Ryder Cup preparations.

U.S. captain Steve Stricker had a 67 and was five shots behind Mickelson.

Four-time major champion Ernie Els (67) and former PGA Champion David Toms (68) were among those three shots behind.

Six players were within three shots of the lead, though Mickelson loves the Donald Ross design and is able to attack on a course still soft from heavy rain Friday that caused delays.

“They’re playing some good golf, so I have to keep doing the same, and playing aggressive, driving the ball in play, hit some good iron shots and give myself some putts, and hopefully make some,” Mickelson said. “I feel like I have a really low one in me, and I want to go try to shoot that number.”

PGA

Adam Schenk let the wind do the work for a driver onto the par-4 15th green, the start of three birdies over his last four holes that led to a 5-under 66 and a one-shot lead over Matthew Wolff in the Shriners Children’s Open in Las Vegas.

The wind also helped him rip another drive on the 18th that set up a gap wedge for his final birdie, giving the 29-year-old from Indiana another shot at his first PGA Tour victory.

Right behind was Wolff, one of the more dynamic young players who is comfortable with where he is and how he’s playing. Wolff hit a pitching wedge on the 514-yard 16th hole and made eagle from 18 feet that led to a 65.

Schenk was at 18-under 195, the second time he has held a 54-hole lead. The other was at the Barracuda Championship in August, when he had the equivalent of an even-par 71 on the final day of modified Stableford and finished fourth.

Six players were separated by three shots going into the final round at TPC Summerlin, a group that includes Sam Burns.

LPGA

Jin Young Ko picked up her fourth birdie on the par-5 16th and closed with two pars for a 2-under 69, giving her a four-shot lead at the Founders Cup in West Caldwell, New Jersey, as she tries to win for the third time this year.

The 26-year-old South Korean star has been on a tear since July, with two victories, a runner-up and three other top 10s in her last six events. Even more impressive is her last month.

Saturday was her 13th consecutive round in the 60s, one off the LPGA record Annika Sorenstam set during a four-tournament stretch in 2005, when she had 10 wins and was halfway to the calendar Grand Slam.

Ko played bogey-free on the back nine and stretched her lead to four shots over U.S. Women’s Open champion Yuka Saso (67), Elizabeth Szokol (65), two-time major champion So Yeon Ryu (71) and Lindsey Weaver (69).

Ko was at 13-under 200 as she tries to match Nelly Korda as the only three-time winners on the LPGA Tour this season.

Europe

World No. 1 Jon Rahm will need a big comeback to have a chance at successfully defending his Spanish Open title in Madrid.

Rahm started one shot off the lead, but a rough third round left him six strokes behind new leader Rafa Cabrera Bello heading into the final round.

Rahm holds a share of ninth after carding a 1-over-72 through the third round at Madrid’s Club de Campo Villa. He hit a double bogey on the sixth hole and bogeyed the fourth, 11th and 12th holes, to go with four birdies.

Cabrera Bello shot a bogey-free 7-under 64 to move to the top of the leaderboard. He finished second to Rahm here in 2019. He is seeking his first win since the 2017 Scottish Open.

Cabrera Bello is two shots ahead of fellow Spaniard Adri Arnaus and France’s Julien Guerrier. Englishman Jack Senior is another shot back. Overnight leader Wil Besseling slipped to five shots back with three more players.