x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Mickelson makes right choice to grab lead

The left-hander is two shots ahead of Woods after tangling with trees in Shanghai.

SHANGHAI // When the left-handed Phil Mickelson had to play a right-handed shot to escape trees at the ninth in yesterday's third round of the WGC-HSBC Champions at Sheshan, he turned to his caddie, Bones Mackay, and said it was good news rather than bad. "I know I went on to make a bogey, but I still saw it as a good omen," said the world No 2.

Mickelson, who is 14 under par and two ahead of halfway leaders Tiger Woods and Nick Watney, went on to explain how he had played a right-handed recovery in winning the WGC-CA championship at Doral in March. "The biggest thing about my round today was that I kept the ball in play," he said of what ended up as a five-under-par 67. Now he, like everyone else, is full of eager anticipation at the prospect of a final round in which he and Woods, along with Watney, are out together. "I've got a tough day ahead of me but it should be fun," he said.

When Woods, who carded a 70, was asked if there would be a bit of an edge to proceedings with Mickelson, his old rival, the man ahead of him, he shook his head. "No matter who is out in front, whether it's Phil or someone else, you just go out and play. You get into your own little world and try to do the best you possibly can." Watney, meanwhile, is seeing himself as the odd man out. He is coached by Butch Harman, and Harman's advice has been that he should walk slowly "and just kind of take everything in and do my best".

Woods had looked as if he was forging ahead when he made a birdie at the eighth at the same time as Mickelson was tangling with the trees. He moved two clear but, after making only one further birdie to set against the bogeys he amassed at the ninth and 11th, he stuck fast on 12 under. Mickelson rushed to the front with back-to-back birdies at the 14th and 15th and bagged one more at the last for good measure.

Lee Westwood, whose 65 was the low round of the day, is no worse-placed than four shots off the pace. Two years ago, Westwood came from 12 back with 10 to go to make a play-off. "So I know what I'm capable of round here," he warned. "It's the type of course where I can go low. It suits my eye, it suits my game." @Email:sports@thenational.ae