February 2 2013
By Fred Albers, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Phil Mickelson lost a six-shot lead by making double bogey on the 18th hole late Friday afternoon. Many suggested the two-shot swing would prove to be critical. That deficit lasted just one hole. Mickelson made birdie at the first, while Bill Haas made bogey and the six-shot lead was restored just 15 minutes into the third round.
The coliseum: The 16th hole at the Waste Management Phoenix Open is always memorable on a Saturday afternoon, as the 20,000-seat amphitheater is rocking. There are the usual caddie races and some occasional sideshows. Padraig Harrington sent footballs into the crowd in preparation for the Super Bowl, saying it was the very first time he had ever kicked an American football. The fans savored every moment.
Putter loft: It turned into a bad day for Keegan Bradley with a 73 but it may be a good week in the long run. Bradley has not felt comfortable with his putter and extensive testing this week concluded he needed less loft. The adjustment was made and Bradley says there is a noticeable difference in the way the ball rolls off the putter face.
Pepsi: Steve Hale loves Pepsi. Bradley's caddie is well known for stashing cans of the soda at strategic locations throughout the course to be retrieved and enjoyed during play. This week presented a problem since the desert landscaping did not provide suitable camouflage. Hale still found a hiding place in the first two rounds. He snuck a couple cans of Pepsi into Kyle Stanley's bag, who was paired with Bradley on Thursday and Friday. Hale enjoyed watching someone else carry around his 12-ounce cans and covertly retrieved them during play.
Hole location: There were several tough pins during the third round but the seventh hole's was brutal. The hole played 222 yards and the flag was tucked 24 paces onto the green and just behind a bunker. Anything short became a difficult uphill two-putt while anything long ran off the back of the sloping green. The hole did not give up a single birdie to anyone who began their round at the first and played a third of a stroke over par.
Driver: Mickelson hit driver at the 18th hole into the left rough and predicted he will do the same thing on Sunday. After hitting 3-wood into the water on Friday, Mickelson changed to driver on Saturday. It's a 300-yard carry over the water, a 315-yard carry past the water and bunker. By hitting driver, Mickelson takes the water out of play and if he loses it left, the rough is not severe and the angle into the green is good. Mickelson says he would not mind having the same shot on Sunday.
Adrenaline: Mickelson has a simple formula for playing the 16th hole. He takes five yards off the actual yardage. Mickelson says a player can't help but be energized by the 20,000 fans and that gets the adrenaline pumping. Phil subtracts five yards and plays that number. It worked perfectly on Saturday. At 174 yards, Phil hit a “stock 9-iron” 167 yards. It wound up two feet from the cup and the ensuing applause echoed throughout TPC Scottsdale until floating into the ionosphere, where I imagine the cheers are still moving the decibel meter.
Fred Albers is a course reporter for SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio. For more information on SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio, click here.