SAN FRANCISCO • Phil Mickelson has made a career out of a sublime short game, so when he describes a bunker shot as the second best of his life, it is worthy of attention.
Mickelson holed a 45-foot sand shot at the par-four 13th hole during the third round at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am in California on Saturday, a feat that had the gallery cheering wildly. But it was one that did not go in that prompted the 49-year-old to superlatives.
His tee shot at the famous short par-three seventh hugging the Pacific Ocean plugged in a bunker some 40 feet from the pin, a lie that meant he was unable to impart any significant backspin on the ball.
Never mind, the short-game wizard judged and executed the shot perfectly, landing the ball in long grass in front of the green and, aided by perhaps a touch of luck, watched in delight as it trundled up to tap-in distance.
The coy smile on Lefty's face said it all, and he expanded afterwards on the shot.
"That was No. 2 in my all-time bunker shots, behind only the 16th hole at Memorial 2006, final round. That was plugged under the lip and I holed it," he said. "This one didn't go in. I was just trying to not make double (bogey) and it ended up being a tap-in (par)."
The shot helped him to a five-under 67 at Pebble Beach - one of three courses in use along with par-72 Spyglass Hill and the par-71 Monterey Peninsula Shore Course - that moved him within one shot of leader Nick Taylor.
Canada's Taylor, who led by two strokes after each of the first two rounds, rebounded from two early bogeys with three birdies and an eagle to keep his name atop the leader board with a three-under 69 at Spyglass Hill for a 17-under 198 total.
A win would be Mickelson's sixth in the storied event, giving him the sole record. He is currently tied with Mark O'Meara.
Australian Jason Day was three off the lead after a two-under 70 at Spyglass Hill for 201.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE