PGA Tour

Mickelson grabs early PGA lead

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Phil Mickelson (AFP)
Phil Mickelson (AFP)

Charlotte - Reigning British Open champion Phil Mickelson fired a nine-under par 63 to seize the overall lead during Saturday's third round of the $6.9 million (5m euros) US PGA Wells Fargo Championship.

Five-time major champion Mickelson, who fired a 75 on Friday, was only one shot off the course record at Quail Hollow to stand on 11-under 205 after 54 holes.

"This was a really good day from start to finish," Mickelson said. "I drove the ball well, my irons were solid, my short game was on and I made a lot of putts."

Germany's Martin Kaymer and Americans J.B. Holmes and Martin Flores were all on the course sharing second at 10-under for the tournament. Kaymer had seven holes remaining while Holmes and Flores still had the back nine to complete.

The course record of 62 was set by Rory McIlroy in 2010 and matched Friday by Zimbabwe's Brendon de Jonge, who was Mickelson's playing partner on Saturday.

World number nine Mickelson began a run of four birdies in a row at the par-4 third hole, including a 29-foot birdie putt at the par-4 fourth and a 38-foot birdie putt at the par-3 sixth.

"Capitalizing on the good shots, the iron shots, they are big momentum putts that carry on to the next holes," said Mickelson of his long birdie efforts.

"They got me ahead of the round. There are holes you can take advantage of but the other holes are tough."

The 43-year-old left-hander followed with a 13-foot eagle putt at the par-5 seventh and a two-foot birdie at the par-4 eighth on his way to a front-side 29.

A nine-foot birdie at the par-3 13th and a four-foot birdie at the par-5 15th pushed Mickelson to the top of the leaderboard while most of the overall leaders were just getting started.

Mickelson found a bunker at 18 but escaped with a three-foot par putt to finish off his best round of the year.

"To be able to salvage par was a big plus," Mickelson said. "It's going to be a good day tomorrow."

Mickelson seeks his 43rd PGA title, a win list that includes the 2004, 2006 and 2010 Masters, the 2005 PGA Championship and last year's British Open.

He will attempt to complete a career grand slam by winning next month's US Open at Pinehurst, where he managed one of his record six runner-up finishes in the event back in 1999, when Mickelson finished second to the late Payne Stewart.

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