SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Phil Mickelson drew the loudest roars from the biggest crowd in golf history Saturday at the Phoenix Open.
Mickelson nearly aced the par-3 16th, hitting a 9-iron to a foot to set up a birdie on the rowdy stadium hole packed with nearly 20,000 screaming fans.
Estimated at 179,022, the third-round crowd broke the record of 173,210 set last year, also on a Saturday at fan-friendly TPC Scottsdale. The event has drawn 467,030 for the week and is in position to break the mark of 538,356 set in 2008.
Mickelson birdied the final four holes and five of the last six for a 7-under 64 and a six-stroke lead over Brandt Snedeker.
The 42-year-old former Arizona State star has led after each round, opening with a 60 and shooting a 65 on Friday. He fell a stroke short of the tour record for the first 54 holes, and matched the tournament mark set by Mark Calcavecchia in 2001.
Making his 24th appearance in the event that he won in 1996 and 2005, Mickelson is trying to complete his third career wire-to-wire victory and first since the 2006 BellSouth Classic – a 13-stroke blowout the week before the second of his three Masters victories.
He also is in position to match the tournament record of three victories set by Arnold Palmer and matched by Gene Littler and Calcavecchia. Mickelson won the last of his 40 PGA Tour titles 51 weeks ago at Pebble Beach.
The left-hander played the first 12 holes in 2 under, making a 20-foot birdie putt on the par-4 first and a 25-footer on the par-4 fifth. He got up and down from greenside bunkers for birdies on the par-5 13th and 15th holes, followed with the tap-in on 16, then chipped to 2 feet on the 337-yard 17th.
A day after making a double-bogey 6 on the 18th when he hit a 3-wood drive into the water on the left, Mickelson blasted driver over the water and into the grandstand. He got a free drop, hit to 15 feet and holed the putt to another round of loud cheers.
Snedeker had a 65 to reach 18 under.
Padraig Harrington and Ryan Moore were tied for third at 16 under. Harrington, making his first appearance in the event, shot a 63, and Moore had a 65.
Harrington is winless on the PGA Tour since sweeping the British Open and PGA Championship in 2008, and hasn’t won anywhere since the Asian Tour’s 2010 Johor Open.
On the 16th, the 41-year-old Irishman kicked footballs – official Super Bowl models provided by Wilson, also his equipment manufacturer – into the crowd. He kicked the first ball field-goal style, and then punted the rest as he made his way to the green.
Drawing “Ole! Ole!” chants from the crowd, Harrington ran his 15-foot birdie putt 4 feet past and made the comebacker for par.
Gallacher takes 3-shot lead in Dubai
Stephen Gallacher shot a 10-under 62 on Saturday to grab a three-shot lead at the Dubai Desert Classic and break a three-round scoring record set by Tiger Woods 12 years ago.
The 111th-ranked Scotsman, who finished second last year in Dubai, is looking for his first European Tour win since 2004. Gallacher holed a bunker shot on 18 for an eagle to finish with a 21-under total of 195. That improved on Woods’ tournament mark by a shot and just missed tying the course record of 61 set back in 1994 by Ernie Els.
Overnight leader Richard Sterne (66) tried to keep pace with the Scotsman, sinking long birdie putts on the eighth and 11 holes and then a 45-footer from the fringe on 15. Thorbjorn Olesen (67) was five shots back in third place.
Teens lead Australian Masters after 2 rounds
Sixteen-year-old Australian amateur Oh Su-hyun and 17-year-old Thai golfer Ariya Jutanugarn shared the second-round lead Saturday at the Australian Ladies Masters.
Oh shot an eight-under-par 64 on the soggy Royal Pines course hit by more than 16 inches of rain in the past week, while Ariya had a 65. They had two-round totals of 10-under 134 and a one-stroke lead heading into the final round Sunday of the European Ladies Tour’s opening event of the season.
Australian Stacey Keating, who shot 67, and last year’s Australian Open winner American Jessica Korda (68) were tied for third.
Seven-time Australian Masters champion Karrie Webb (66) and South Korea’s Chella Choi (67) were tied for fifth, another stroke back.