Phil Mickelson, chasing a record-setting sixth Pebble Beach Pro-Am title, played the angles to pull within one stroke of leader Nick Taylor in the US PGA Tour event on Saturday.
Canada’s Taylor, who led by two strokes after each of the first two rounds, rebounded from two early bogeys with three birdies and an eagle to keep his name atop the leaderboard with a three-under par 69 for 17-under 198.
But Mickelson was closing in, firing six birdies in a wild five-under par 67 at Pebble Beach, one of three courses in use last week along with par-72 Spyglass Hill and the par-71 Monterey Peninsula Shore Course.
Mickelson’s needed all of his short-game magic in a round that saw him hit just half of the greens in regulation.
He rolled in 16-foot birdie putts at the first and second holes.
After a four-foot birdie at the sixth he produced a dazzling par save at the picturesque par-three seventh, where his tee shot found the back bunker snuggled atop the coastal bluff and he blasted out to two feet.
Unable to get up and down from a greenside bunker at the 12th, Mickelson then holed out from a bunker for birdie at 13, then holed out from the fairway for another birdie at 14.
With Taylor in the clubhouse with a two-shot lead, Mickelson couldn’t get a nine-foot birdie putt to drop at 17. But he rolled in a five-footer for birdie at 18.
“So the course was not easy,” said Mickelson, who matched Mark O’Mear’s record of five Pebble Beach Pro-Am titles with a victory last year. “You have the wind, obviously, but the greens were so firm and they’re so small that you’re hitting to such small sections.
“What’s more important is the angles to those pins,” he said. “If you can miss it on the correct side, you can still have a shot and get up and down and get close.
“I missed one in a bad spot on 12, otherwise I missed it in the correct spot to where I had not too difficult up and downs,” Mickelson added, although the 49-year-old five-time major winner quickly reconsidered.
“Actually, that’s not totally true, I had some pretty hard up and downs.”
Taylor notched his three-under effort at Spyglass Hill.
His early troubles opened the door for Mickelson and Australian Jason Day, who briefly joined the leaders but ended the day three off the lead after a two-under 70 for 201.
Day moved as low as 15-under with his fourth birdie of the day at Spyglass Hill’s par-three fourth, his 13th hole of the day.
But he gave a stroke back at the next hole when he was unable to get up and down from a greenside bunker and settled for a two-under par 70 and a 14-under total of 201.