Mickelson on march in desert

To mark Super Bowl weekend Pádraig Harrington kicks a football into the stands on the 16th hole during the third round of the Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale on Saturday. photograph: hunter martin/getty images

To mark Super Bowl weekend Pádraig Harrington kicks a football into the stands on the 16th hole during the third round of the Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale on Saturday. photograph: hunter martin/getty images


GOLF:Record crowds of more than 179,000 at the Phoenix Open on Saturday had plenty to celebrate during an action-packed third round as their favourite son, Phil Mickelson, charged into a commanding six-stroke lead.

Twice-champion Mickelson, piled up seven birdies in a flawless seven-under-par 64 at the sun-splashed TPC Scottsdale to strengthen his hold on the PGA Tour event.

The loudest roar of the day came after the American left-hander struck a nine-iron to inside 2ft at the par-three 16th where nearly 20,000 fans were crammed into the massive grandstands surrounding the “noisiest hole in golf”.

When Mickelson tapped in the birdie putt to move five ahead of the field, the decibel level again spiked as cheers echoed around the course.

‘Never kicked one before’

“It’s hard to describe,” said Mickelson, who ended the day by tying the tournament’s 54-hole record of 24-under 189, of the atmosphere inside the ropes at the Phoenix Open.

Earlier in the day, the fans packed around the 16th hole were treated to an impromptu display of football kicking by Pádraig Harrington after the Irishman had eagled the 15th to trim Mickelson’s lead, briefly, to three shots.

As the crowd erupted with chants of “Ole! Ole! Ole!” triple major winner Harrington place-kicked an American football from the tee and then punted the next few before setting off toward the green.

After Harrington had two-putted from 15ft for a par, cheers of “Paddy, Paddy, Paddy” echoed across the green.

“I have actually thrown an American football before but I’ve never kicked one before, said Harrington.

The footballs were official Super Bowl issue. “When I kicked a couple out of my hands, I pulled the first couple because I wasn’t used to it. Then I hit one sweet and actually kicked it over the grandstand,” said the Dubliner.

Harrington’s 63 was the day’s best score and lifted him into a share of third place at 16 under, eight strokes behind the pace-setting Mickelson.

FedExCup champion Brandt Snedeker was alone in second at 18 under after shooting a 65, but his six-birdie display was not good enough to close the gap on the tournament leader.

“Obviously you need to shoot low if you want to catch Phil right now,” said Snedeker.

“Any time you shoot six under par on a golf course you’re gaining ground. Unfortunately I didn’t do that today on Phil. I’ve got to go out and shoot something low tomorrow and hope Phil doesn’t have quite as good a day as he’s had the last three,” added Snedeker, a four-times winner on the PGA Tour. – (Reuters)

Mickelson wins

Phil Mickelson hit a final-round four under par 67 to close a wire to wire win in the Waste Management Phoenix Open in Arizona last night.

Mickelson won the event for the third time with a final score of 28 under par, to finish four shots clear of nearest rival Brandt Snedeker.

Pádraig Harrington shot a disappointing 70 to finish in a tie for ninth place on 17 under par.

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