HARRISON, N.Y. - Phil Mickelson grinned at the roar of the New York crowd, finally feeling that old energy again. Before the first of the FedEx Cup playoff tournaments, The Barclays, even began, Mickelson talked about his year almost starting over again with his wrist completely healed.
In the third round with the sun blazing and his people getting baked, Mickelson took the New York fans who still love him unconditionally on a thrill ride. After a 4-under 32 on the front nine, Mickelson stood at nine under, just three shots back of some suddenly very shaky leaders.
Suddenly, Westchester Country Club was as loud as it's been all week. Even when he begins a day seven shots back of the lead, Mickelson draws the largest gallery. With Tiger Woods having elected to skip this event, even though it's the playoffs, the people's love for Phil has only seemed to grow.
"Screw Tiger, he doesn't like New York. You're the man Phil!" more than one fan yelled out. And that was about the nicest printable thing the galleries trailing Mickelson yelled about Tiger.
"I love the New York crowd," Mickelson said. "They always come up with some very creative little sayings."
But when the crowd screamed for Mickelson to create magic, he only found trouble. He bogeyed back-to-back par 4s (No. 11 and 12). Then he double-bogeyed the downhill par-3 s16th, dealing a crippling blow to his chances. Even after finishing with back-to-back birdies, Mickelson only had a two-under 69 for the day, placing him seven shots back of leader Steve Stricker at seven-under going into Sunday.
That left Mickelson promising the fans they would see the old go-for-everything, no-caution Phil in the final round.
"Very aggressive because I have to shoot an incredible round to catch them," Mickelson said in explaining his Sunday strategy. "The front nine will be important. I've got to get some putts to go in. There's a lot of birdie holes on the front nine and if I can shoot 4, 5, 6-under, I think I can make a good move and have a chance on the back."
J.B. Holmes is one of the new wave of young Tour players that pound out drives that would make John Daly jealous. It wasn't long ago that there was buzz about guys like Holmes and Bubba Watson changing golf.
Only Holmes came to Westchester Country Club and changed his game. He hit driver only four times in the third round, despite a few fans pleading with him to let it rip. At Westchester - one of the shortest courses in the PGA Tour rotation - it's all about placement rather than big booms.
And for a while there, it looked like defying his natural instincts could lead to a course record and an improbable run back into tournament contention for Holmes. Long before Hunter Mahan shot 62 in the afternoon, Holmes raced to eight under through 15. Then he bogeyed 16 and 17 to finish 6-under for the round and the tournament.
Which still doesn't mean he likes the course.
"It's frustrating not being able to hit driver on par 5s like No. 5 or something like that," Holmes said. "That's just how the course is. ...Honestly I'm not a real big fan of the golf course."
Neither are the fans calling for 330-yard blasts.
Still, the temperature soared at Saturday at Westchester Country Club, a dramatic change from earlier in the week, making it seem even hotter. After highs in the 60s early in the week and nothing beyond the 70s in the first few rounds, it hit 97 degrees with a stifling humidity. A heat advisory was issued for the New York metro area because the heat index (what the humidity makes the temperature feel like) was supposed to be between 100 and 104.
Just walking the course as a spectator would leave you with a soaked through shirt after four or five holes.
The sweat didn't affect the pros as much as the heat's affect on the greens did. For the first time all week, the course completely dried out and putts started running much faster on the bumpy surfaces.
The way the Westchester Country Club course is set up for The Barclays gives the PGA players a very unusual opening look. Hole No. 1 is a 190-yard par 3 with a two-tiered green that slopes as severely as some ski slopes.
Store that driver and start thinking.
It's a sharp contrast with most PGA Tournament openers - usually a par 4, occasionally a par 5, almost always a decent amount of driving room. The par 3 at Westchester often ends up setting the momentum for a round very early.
K.J. Choi birdied it in the first two rounds, helping build up his significant two-round lead. He only pared it to begin his struggle that ended as a 1-under 70 Saturday. Adam Scott bogeyed it to start round three, quickly losing sight of Choi before his day was 15 minutes old.
"It's a real feast or famine hole to start with," Rich Beem said.
August 26, 2007
Chris Baldwin keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.
Davis Love III, who played the final 57 holes of the Children's Miracle Network Classic without a bogey, finished at 25-under 263 in the season-ending event played at the Walt Disney World Golf Resort in Florida. It has been a long road back for Love, who severely sprained his ankle late last year. After tearing ligaments, he needed surgery, and he's spent much of this year rehabilitating the injury.
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