Mickelson takes 54-hole lead at Desert Classic
This is just the second time since 2013 that Phil Mickelson has started Sunday with a lead
January 19, 2019
By Sean Martin, PGATOUR.COM
Phil Mickelson leads by two after 54 holes at Desert Classic
LA QUINTA, Calif. – A World Golf Hall of Famer, the Desert Classic’s most consistent contender and a 31-year-old rookie will meet in Sunday’s final group of the Desert Classic.
Phil Mickelson said he was rusty at the start of the week. Three days later, he shot the second-lowest 54-hole score of his lengthy career, a 22-under 194 (60-68-66). He’s trying to become just the third wire-to-wire in the Desert Classic’s 60-year history.
He has a two-shot lead over Adam Hadwin, who’s accustomed to late Sunday tee times on PGA West’s Stadium Course. Adam Long, who’s making his sixth PGA TOUR start, is 19 under par after shooting his second 63 of the week.
Mickelson is seeking the 44th win of his Hall of Fame career. He has converted 25 of 39 54-hole leads into victory, but this is just the second time since 2013 that he has started Sunday with a lead. He held a two-shot lead entering the final round of the 2016 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, but shot 72 and lost to Vaughn Taylor by one shot.
“I just love being in contention, having a chance to win, being in the final group, feeling the nerves, feeling that excitement, the opportunity,” Mickelson said.. “It’s really fun.”
Hadwin is 79 under par at this event since 2016. No one else has come close to matching him over those 15 rounds. Mickelson is 58 under. Only Bud Cauley, who missed the cut, stands between them (59 under).
“I’ve had a chance these last few years now,” Hadwin said. “I’ve been close.”
In the last three Desert Classics, he’s finished no worse than sixth. He’s shot seven consecutive rounds of 68 or lower here, going 40 under in that span.
On Sunday, they’ll face the toughest course among the trio in use this week. Pete Dye built PGA West’s Stadium Course as a West Coast sequel to TPC Sawgrass. He was given orders to build the hardest golf course in the world. The course isn’t nearly as terrifying as when it opened in the 1980s, but there are still enough water hazards and deep bunkers to keep players on their toes.
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Adam Hadwin has finished no worse than sixth at La Quinta in the past three years.
The reigning Desert Classic champion starts the final round six shots off the lead.
Charlie Reiter carded eight birdies and an eagle to just miss the third round cut.
The field has averaged 70.4 strokes on the Stadium Course this week, but there have been 64 scores of double-bogey or worse, as well.
There aren’t any hazards in the short grass, though. Hadwin hit all 18 greens in his 65 on Thursday at the Stadium Course.
Mickelson has made just one over-par score this week despite missing half his fairways over the last two rounds. He was bogey-free at the Stadium Course on Saturday while hitting just six fairways.
Mickelson, who’s second in driving distance this week, said it’s just part of his plan.
“I played OK. My goal or game plan of playing the Stadium Course is to actually hit drivers and to try to bomb it down there as close to the greens as you can,” he said. “It’s a course you don’t have to be perfect on. You have to hit a lot of good shots in certain spots, but if you miss it properly, you can still play this golf course.
“I feel like I don’t have to be perfect. I can come out, play aggressive, which is how I like to play, try to crush drivers and get it down as close as I can to the greens and see if I can make some more birdies.”
Long will round out the final threesome. He’s 205th in the FedExCup after missing three of four cuts this season (and finishing T63 in his other start, at the Safeway Open).
“It will be fun,” he said. “It will be exciting. It will be a challenge. It will be tough.”
Adam Hadwin Round 3 highlights at Desert Classic