MEXICO CITY -- Phil Mickelson has experienced his share of wild rounds, enough to earn him the nickname “Phil the Thrill.”
None quite compare to the one he had Saturday at the WGC-Mexico Championship.
Mickelson hit just one more fairway -- four -- than he needed rulings in a wild afternoon in which he made six birdies, three bogeys and, despite all the errant shots, still somehow shot three-under 68 to sit just two strokes off leader Justin Thomas entering the final round at Club de Golf Chapultepec.
“I came out this year playing pretty good, and I entered this week, I was playing well, I was driving the ball well and I had an opportunity today to show by being in the last group all the hard work that I've put into it and how my game has really come around,” Mickelson said. “Then I had a complete meltdown and lost all focus of my game for a nine-hole stretch there.”
It started with a blocked tee shot so far left into the trees on the par-4 10th that Mickelson couldn’t find his ball, later getting confirmation from a fan that someone had picked it up.
Lefty got a free drop, hit his next shot to 12 feet but missed the birdie putt.
His tee shot on the next hole went the other way, sailing right and into thick brush. But because he was standing on a sprinkler head, he got another free drop, whacked his second out, his third short of the green and got up-and-down to save par.
At the par-4 12th, Mickelson once again pulled his tee shot left and into the heavy brush. He didn’t get a drop this time, however, was forced to punch out, knocked his third onto the green and two-putted for bogey.
“Phil rode his luck out there, but jeez, if I was hitting it off the tee like he did today, there's no way I would shoot 68,” said playing partner Rory McIlroy. “That's the great thing about Phil, he don't get disheartened about something like that. I would be a mess if I was hitting it the way he was today.”
While McIlroy admitted to being distracted by all that was going on, Mickelson did recover, rallying with three straight birdies, beginning on the par-5 15th. On the next hole, he rolled in a 10-footer for birdie before sticking his tee shot at the par-3 17th to a few feet.
Mickelson bogeyed the last hole -- which kept him out of playing in the final group on Sunday -- after failing to get up-and-down from short of the green but finds himself in good position with 18 holes to go as he tries to end a 3 1/2-year winless drought.
“I know it's not far away,” he said. “I'll get it worked out. And I fought hard, showed a lot of heart trying to just stay in it and it could be a lot worse.”