Phil Mickelson storms into contention with superb 63 in Abu Dhabi
Last Updated: 18/01/14 4:37pm
Phil Mickelson: Nine birdies and an eagle in round three
Phil Mickelson lit up the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship as he made a stunning, early third-round charge in trademark fashion.
The Open champion was out-of-sorts over the first two days and made the cut with only one shot to spare following rounds of 73 and 70.
He insisted on Friday evening that he was capable of going low despite the tough course set-up, and Mickelson was true to his word as he fired a sparkling nine-under 63 to vault to the top of the leaderboard.
The American gave himself an outside chance of posting the first 59 in European Tour history after following up a front-nine 31 with further birdies at 10, 11 and 13.
A bogey at 14 effectively ended his bid for a place in the record books, but he picked up another shot at 15 and closed with another birdie despite carving his approach from a fairway bunker into a sandy waste area.
Mickelson's renowned short-game prowess came to the fore as he clipped a low pitch under tree branches from 98 yards onto the green, and the resulting 30-foot putt was never in doubt.
"It was not a smart decision out of the bunker to go for the green, but I don't know, that's just what I do," Mickelson joked. "Bones (his caddie Jim Mackay) did not like the decision and I don't blame him. It wasn't probably my smartest play.
"I hit a terrible shot but because it was sitting on a fairly hard, packed lie, I was able to go in steep and keep it low underneath the trees and I had plenty of green to work with.
"I will still be back a few shots I anticipate heading into the final round, but I love the fact that I'm in contention and I have an opportunity (to win) here in the first week of the year."
As it transpired, Mickelson's efforts earned him a place in Sunday's final pairing alongside Craig Lee.
The Scot carded a 69 to end the day with a two-shot lead over the left-hander, who was promoted to joint second late in the day when Rory McIlroy was hit with a two-shot penalty.