1998 Mercedes Championship
|by Martin Olivera|
In a day in which only three players failed to break par, Phil Mickelson fired a 68 to remain in the lead by one shot over David Duval, and by two over veterans Nick Price and John Cook. Mickelson's round of 4-under-par consisted of seven birdies and three bogeys.
At the end of the first round, two players "over-40", Cook and Price, finished on top of a host of "under-30". Today the roles reversed, with Mickelson and Duval leading over Price and Cook.
The second round was completed early in the morning with the course still wet and under scattered showers. The grounds crew did a fantastic job in making the course playable after, at times, torrential rains last night flooded several areas. Each green had a team of "squegeers" standing by to remove any excess of water along the players' line.
At the end of the second round, just after 10:30am, Mickelson was already in the lead at 9-under after shooting 67. He shared that lead with Cook, who finished with a 70. Both were one shot ahead of Nobilo and Price who shot 69 and 70, respectively. Eight out of 30 players shot above par on the second round.
The third round started at 11:08am, giving the leaders some time to relax until their early afternoon tee time. The low rounds of the day were by David Duval and Mark Calcavecchia with 66. "My game got better as the day --the tournament, actually-- went on", Duval said. To score his 6-under 66 he hit all 14 fairways, 15 greens, and took 27 putts. It all resulted in 7 birdies and 1 bogey to finish behind Mickelson by one. Tomorrow Duval will try to win his 4th PGA TOUR tournament in a row, last accomplished by Hogan in 1953.
Mickelson's score would have been lower if it wasn't for a few missed short putts (3-putted #7 and missed a 2-footer for par on #18), but he compensated by sinking a 50-footer on #16 for birdie. He only had 23 putts for the round. Tomorrow he will battle to win this tournament for the second time (first time in 1994).
Putting was missing in Tiger Woods game today. After finishing his second round with a 67 and getting back into the picture, Woods shot a 69 (4 birdies, one bogey) in the third round, hitting 14 greens but taking 30 putts. He's five shots back, and given the scoring conditions of "preferred lies" and soft greens, a very low score is a possibility. He's very much in the tournament.
John Cook and Nick Price had steady rounds of 70 and 69, respectively. They remain in position after the charge by the younger players. Tomorrow the winner will have to score low to finish on top, and with 8 players within 5 shots of the lead, the stage is set for an exciting finish.