-16 MICKELSON 64 -4
-16 SINGH 69 -3
-15 WESTWOOD 68 -4
-15 McILROY 69 -5
-14 SCOTT 66 -2
-14 GARRIGUS 66 -5
-14 DJ JOHNSON 67 -3
-13 WOODS 71 -6
-12 McDOWELL 69 -1
-12 ZACH JOHNSON 68 -6
-12 VAN PELT 71 -1
-11 five golfers
What a leaderboard ! Last week I spoke about the cream rising to the top and it has happened again and then some. Eight of the named golfers are ranked inside the top 22 in the World, three in the top 4, but it is more than that, if you asked the casual sports fan to name six active golfers, five would probably be on this list. It is a sponsor and televison executive's dream and viewing figures will be through the roof in the US.
Figures to the right of each golfer are their 3rd round score and their totals for the closing six holes this week, it is very hard not to see this being decided coming down the home straight and these holes, which include two par 3's, two long par 4's and a reachable par 5, with hazards a plenty, are going to make for some fun viewing ! I am excited already !
Crooked Stick GC , just north of Indianapolis has not hosted a major tour event since the 1991 PGA Championship. No consecutive holes are laid out in the same direction and golfers must constantly adjust to wind from a different tack. Long holes are followed by short holes, and shots calling for right-to-left flight are followed by shots requiring a left-to-right path.Those closing six holes are a microcosm of the course as a whole and will be a tournament within a tournament.
I have had my eye on Big Phil since we came so close to a major, major payout on him in a major, at the Masters this year.... so close ! Mickelson won the AT&T at Pebble Beach in February and we normally see the best of him early season, with most of his tour wins coming between February and May, infact, we used to see very little of him after the PGA Championship, but the Fed Ex Cup Playoff series has changed all that, he has posted two end of the season victories in recent years, including one at the Tour Championship in 2009. He showed his well being with a fourth spot at the Deutsche Bank event last week, where he finished strongly, shooting his low round of the week on Sunday , -5 no shots dropped after the 3rd hole, with his all round game looking in solid shape. When he won at PB he shot a Sunday bogey free eight under par and it is " in contention" that he really comes alive, thriving on competition.
Golf at the business end of events is all about how players handle themselves under intense pressure and I always like "in contention " stats as a guide to this, "top 5 performance" is the number of times a player's finishing position improves or remains unchanged in the final round when starting in the top 5 . Phil has entered the final round in the top five 17 times in this last five seasons and only twice has his position worsened.
He is at his happiest in competition and surrounded by his family, they have been with him on tour for the last two weeks and it is no coincidence that now things are coming together, after the Deutsche he said “my game feels like it’s back and I’m ready to start competing here in the next couple of weeks.”
In his post practice round interview on Wednesday he spoke a little about his form and the changes to his putting grip/stroke ....
Q. You were playing so well after Deutsche Bank. You've got to be looking forward to tomorrow.
PHIL MICKELSON: I'm looking forward to this week. My game is finally starting to come around. I'm starting to drive the ball well and hit good iron shots, and my putting has been really good, too. I'm looking forward to this week and the next couple.
Q. Is the putting stroke getting more and more comfortable, or the grip that is?
PHIL MICKELSON: I guess it's more comfortable the more I've used it, but the results have been the same, and that's the ball starting on line, my touch has been good, and I've made a lot of putts.
Q. How committed are you to that putting stroke?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, I don't see me going back any time soon. I really like it. It's helped me with short putts, and then one of the other side effects has been the touch on longer putts has been great, and on fast greens it's even better because of the softness of my bottom hand. It sits very lightly on the putter, and my touch is better.
Yesterday, after his fantastic 64 .....
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Phil Mickelson, thank you for joining us after a third-round 64, currently tied for the lead with several players still on the course, but maybe some opening comments, great day, 10 birdies.
PHIL MICKELSON: It was a fun day. I got it going with the putter. I hit a lot of good shots. It was very similar, actually, to yesterday's round where I played really well, had a lot of good opportunities. But yesterday when the ball was getting to the lip and turning away, today they seemed to fall in.
Q. I'm not sure how aware you were of your gallery, but you had a mob out there, and you gave them quite a ride, and they loved it. This is the first time you guys have been here since '91. Could you sense that hunger, and did the crowd -- did you get a kick out of the crowd?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think it's great to come play golf here. It's a great golf course, and the community is -- it's unreal how much support we've had this week. The weather has been difficult. I've driven -- driving to the course, you see people walking for a couple miles from the parking lot to get here, and I just think the dedication and the loyalty of golf fans, especially in this area, is pretty impressive, given that it's not like another sport where you just buy a ticket, sit down and watch the entire event. You're walking miles, you're catching just a small glimpse of the action, and I think that it's been pretty impressive the numbers of people that have come out to support us, and we're very appreciative.
Q. The last time the TOUR event was here, I think you were getting ready to defend your U.S. Amateur title. Do you remember reading about Daly and what kind of an impression that had on you?
PHIL MICKELSON: I remember that I qualified for the tournament and wasn't allowed to play in it, and that really upset me back then. I won the Tucson Open in '91, which qualified me to play the PGA Championship, and I wasn't allowed to play because I wanted to graduate college and stay an amateur. I would have loved to have competed. I felt I deserved to after I had already qualified, and I look back on that 20 years later, and I'm still upset.
Q. I wonder if you could just speak to, you've been in all the TOUR Championships since the FedExCup began. This is the one thing that's been a benefit is all the top guys are playing these tournaments and now we have a great leaderboard like this. I wonder if you could just speak to that and how that's evolved.
PHIL MICKELSON: It's been great for the TOUR where a number of players would shut it down after the PGA Championship, but now it's a huge motivating factor for us to keep our games sharp. It has the best players in the world competing against each other four additional times. More than that it's kept the U.S. players sharp and their games really in tune heading into the Ryder Cup in this year's instance or the Presidents Cup, and I think it's really helped the U.S. side in our performance the last five years in these team events.
Q. Could you talk about how satisfying these last two weeks having after a rough stretch this summer?
PHIL MICKELSON: Certainly my game went south for a while, and I was trying to piece it back together. I started with some iron play and it progressed to getting my driver back to where I was hitting the ball straight and getting my speed back, and now the putter is back.
It's taken me a little while to piece it back together, but I could tell last week that my game was back and I was ready to play at the highest level again. I knew heading into this week I was going to have a good week. I came out very anxious on Thursday and forced it a little too much the front nine and didn't play a good nine holes. But after that I've been able to settle down and play some good golf. I'm looking forward to tomorrow's shootout. It should be fun.
I made Phil 3.60 in my 100% book and he is 4.70 + on the exchanges, I was a little bigger all the other contenders apart from Tiger ( 9.0 with me) , as I explained, things do need to go his way early, or at least not against him, but he could be fearsome over the closing holes and I don't mind taking a chance on him at big odds, or at least including him in the portfolio, even with some kind of knee problem (again) . He admitted to these, which I prefer tbh, Tiger normally skims over, or denies any "problems", so I find this refreshing, it didn't overly hurt his game over the closing holes.
Q. I saw you wiggling your left leg a little bit. Are you okay?
TIGER WOODS: No, those shots didn't feel very good, those awkward shots. My knee doesn't like that position, so that's kind of the way it goes.
Q. How do you feel about today?
TIGER WOODS: I grinded hard. I didn't have much, and on top of that I made two really bad bogeys on 7 and 8 from the middle of the fairway, but at least I fought back where I have a chance going into tomorrow. It's probably going to take 63 or 64 tomorrow, but it can be done out here. The golf course is soft, and they've got some pretty easy pins out there tomorrow.
TIGER WOODS: You would think. You would think. I'm just trying to scrap it around out there. I'm just waiting for that one good ball-striking day, and with the way I'm chipping and putting right now, it can be done, I just need to do it.
1.75 units Phil Mickelson outright 4.50 + , 0.5 units Tiger woods outright 13.0 + .
Six years, five months and 4,000 posts, I would really like to mark this with a winner !