PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Masters champion Phil Mickelson at least gave himself a chance to reach No. 1 in the world.
Mickelson took advantage of his early start Saturday in The Players Championship with a 6-under 66, a flawless round with only one bogey on the 18th when he went over the green.
He finished at 9-under 207, three shots behind Lee Westwood, who had yet to tee off when Mickelson finished.
Tiger Woods wound up going nowhere.
Mixing birdies with bogeys, Woods was poised to at least stay in contention until he failed to birdie the par-5 16th, then closed with consecutive bogeys for a 71 that put him at 4-under 212. That was eight shots behind Westwood, and five shots behind Mickelson.
Mickelson needs to win The Players Championship and have Woods finish out of the top five to reach No. 1 for the first time.
“I feel like things started to click a little bit today, and I think I’ve got one more low round in me,” Mickelson said. “I just hope that it will be enough, that I’ll be within striking distance.”
In steamy conditions, the wind at times began to gain some force. Still, Mickelson wasn’t the only player going low on the Stadium Course. Former Masters champion Zach Johnson had a 67 and joined Mickelson at 207. Fred Funk, the 53-year-old in his final year of exemption from his 2005 victory in The Players Championship, had a 66 in the first pairing of the day and was at 8-under 208.
Woods came up short of the 16th green with a bump-and-run and had to save par, then three-putted from the back of the 17th green for bogey. He popped up another tee shot on the 18th, leaving him a 5-wood to the green that missed short and right for another bogey.
“I had it going for a little bit,” Woods said. “I thought if I could have birdied 16 and 17, I’d have been right back in the tournament.”