Phil Mickelson didn’t quite shoot himself back into the golf tournament Saturday here at the Bay Hill Club & Lodge, but the reigning Masters champion and former winner of the event was one of the early starters who made a good move up the leaderboard, pleasing the large gallery following along.
On another sun-splashed day at Bay Hill, Mickelson fired a 3-under-par 69, and he will enter today’s final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by MasterCard in a tie for 20th place at 2-under 214. The 1997 winner of Palmer’s prestigious invitational, Mickelson carded six birdies against three bogeys on the Championship Course.
“I feel good,” said the four-time major champion, who not only is trying to win his 29th PGA TOUR victory, but also is getting prepared to defend his title at Augusta National Golf Club in two weeks. “I’m excited about the next couple of weeks, and I had a lot of good shots today.”
Mickelson hit 12 fairways and 14 greens, both highs through three rounds, and needed just 27 putts on the slick Bay Hill greens. He was particularly pleased on Saturday with his tee shot on the par-3 14th that set up a kick-in birdie from 18 inches.
“I hit a 5-iron shot on 14 was the best iron shot I hit all year as far as it flying exactly how I wanted with a slight cut and landing soft, and those are the kind of shots I’m going to need at Augusta,” said the popular left-hander, who spent extra time on the range Friday night after struggling to a second-round 75. He’d struck some better shots coming home, and he wanted to groove the swing for Saturday’s round with Heath Slocum, who fired 68.
“It kind of happened late in yesterday’s round, which is why I hit balls after the round,” Mickelson said. “I don’t normally do that, but I wanted to spend some time on it while I was fresh. It was just a matter of shallowing out the angle of attack and I was able to hit a better fade.
“I need to get better each round,” he added. “I will come out tomorrow and shoot a better round that I did (Saturday). My goal is to progress a little bit more.”