Phil Mickelson showed up early Saturday to work with his swing coach Butch Harmon, then ran off four straight birdies late in his round for a nine-under-par 62 to build a four-shot lead going into the final round of the Northern Trust Open in Los Angeles.
Five players had at least a share of the lead in the third round, but what had been shaping up as a shootout at Riviera soon turned into a showcase for Mickelson. It began with a tee shot to 4 feet on the par-3 14th that led to a birdie that gave him the outright lead. Mickelson followed that with an 8-foot birdie on the 15th, a 35-foot birdie on the 16th, and an up-and-down from the bunker on the par-5 17th for his fourth straight birdie.
Mickelson, the defending champion, was at 16-under 197.“I didn’t feel confident after yesterday’s round and made a phone call to Butch right from the scorer’s tent,” Mickelson said. “He was able to come into town and fortunately, we had some good work done.”
He was 10 shots better than his second round of 72, turning a three-shot deficit into a four-shot lead. Rory Sabbatini (67), K. J. Choi (67) and Scott McCarron (70) joined Fred Couples in a group at 202. Another shot behind were Mark Calcavecchia (64), Steve Stricker (69) and Dustin Johnson (67).