Phil Mickelson had a roller coaster of a day, but he pulled it together in time to win the Northern Trust Open. Mickelson shot a 1-over 72 and beat Steve Stricker by a shot.
Phil Mickelson had a seemingly gargantuan lead in the Northern Trust Open at four strokes but it has since evaporated and now he’s in a tie for third at 13-under. Mickelson eagled the first hole, then unraveled from there. He has yet to make a birdie today. Yesterday, he made six birdies on the back nine and seven total. Steve Stricker is in the lead at 15-under, and Rory Sabbatini is in second at 14-under. Mickelson and Fred Couples are tied for third at 13-under, two shots behind Stricker. Mickelson was at 18-under after eagling the first and has played Riviera at 5-over par since then.
Phil Mickelson birdied six of eight holes, including four consecutive, for a 9-under 62. He took a four-shot lead heading into tomorrow’s final. Mickelson is the defending champion. Andres Romero is in second after shooting a 6-under 65 and Fred Couples, Rory Sabbatini, K.J. Choi and Scott McCarron are all tied for third at six shots back. McCarron still has one hole to play.
Phil Mickelson eagled the first hole for the second consecutive day to move within one shot of Scott McCarron during the third round at the NTO. It’s a crowded leaderboard with big names. Mickelson, McCarron and Steve Stricker are tied for the lead at 10-under while Robert Allenby and Fred Couples are tied for fourth at 9-under and several players – including Rory Sabbatini – are tied for sixth at 8-under.
Steve Stricker knows a thing or two about comebacks.
The only back-to-back winner of the Comeback Player of the Year award in PGA Tour history, Stricker folded during the final round of the Bob Hope Classic last month, shooting a 5-over 77 to turn a three-shot lead entering the final round into a five-shot defeat to Pat Perez.
After missing the cut the following week at the FBR Open, Stricker returned home to Wisconsin to stew.
“That one stuck with me. The next week in Phoenix, I shouldn’t have even played. I should have just gone home. Mentally, I wasn’t in it, down in the dumps,” he said. “It just felt like I threw a tournament away with a real good opportunity to win.”
Stricker returned to the tour this week and has fired rounds of 68 and 66 to move into a tie for second at 8-under 134.
“You know, it’s hard, but I’ve had to pick myself up a number of times out here on tour, so I’m used to it,” he said. “You just need to move on, and just try to keep doing what you know how to do, and for me, that’s just keep working at it and keep trying to get better and try to get myself in that position (to win) again.”
Vincent Johnson surely won’t forget the fifth hole at Riviera Country Club, where he took a two-stroke penalty. While Johnson was in the middle of his swing, the ball moved, which is a one-stroke penalty. Johnson wasn’t sure it had moved. He said his head and eyes were coming back on the line he was trying to play. Johnson then had a conversation with playing partner Bryce Molder, who didn’t think the ball moved either. Johnson should’ve called over a rules official to double check, but he continued and hit the shot. Since the ball had moved, he then hit from the wrong place. When he got to the seventh tee, he was met by a rules official, who told him he was assessed a two-stroke penalty. Johnson was 2-under before the penalty and was in line to make the cut. However, Johnson shot a 74 Friday and was three shots off the cut line. So even if he didn’t have the two-stroke penalty, he would’ve missed the cut by one.
“I think the toughest thing, the game of golf, you want to play with integrity and everything,” Johnson said. “And I take that very seriously. I by no means wanted to you know, try to get an edge on anything. That was probably the biggest thing. You know, the fact that I got the penalty, I’m glad that they got it right.”
Rory Sabbatini, who won here in 2006, got off to an inauspicious start Friday.
From the elevated tee high above the first fairway, he hooked his initial shot out of bounds and into the compound where the TV trailers are parked.
“I just didn’t have a chance to get a cup of coffee this morning, so I figured I would hit over in the trailers and see if they had any,” Sabbatini quipped.
“The first hole, you’ve got all the earth to the right. There’s no reason to hit it left on that hole. But for some reason this morning, my brain had not woken up yet, and I made a stupid mistake.”
Despite a bogey on No. 1, the easiest hole in terms of scoring average on the course, Sabbatini rebounded to shoot a 67 to finish at 7-under 135, which is currently one stroke out of the lead.
“I enjoy playing here. It fits my eye very well,” he said. “I drove the ball well and hit the irons well and I’m really enjoying hitting that new Callaway driver. The thing just goes forever.”