Phil misses opportunities early in 3rd round

Phil misses opportunities early in 3rd round

Phil Mickelson made a birdie, a bogey and three pars before play was suspended.
Carlos Osorio/AP

BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — Phil Mickelson wasn’t the best lefty in his twosome.

Steve Flesch was 2 under through five holes, and moved into a tie for fifth at 1 over on Saturday when thunderstorms forced suspension of play for the day at the PGA Championship.

Mickelson was even par through the same stretch and remained at 3 over, four shots behind second-round leader J.B. Holmes.

“I don’t know if either one of us has a lot to be proud of today,” Flesch said. “I think both of us will be looking to get some momentum in the morning, hoping it will carry us through on what’s going to be a long day.”

The suspension meant the two left-handers faced 31 holes on Sunday. They finished the round on Sunday morning; Flesch shot 70 and Mickelson shot 71.

Mickelson is in the midst of his longest stretch with one top-10 finish at a major, going nine starts with only a tie for fifth in April at the Masters.

“Lefty” shed the label of being the best player without a major championship in 2004 at Augusta, won the PGA Championship in 2005 and earned another green jacket in 2006.

Mickelson was tied for 18th and 19th in the U.S. Open and British Open, respectively, this year. He missed two cuts at majors last season, finishing no better than 24th, and finished outside of the top 15 in the final two majors of 2006.

The world’s second-ranked player got off to a great start Saturday with a drive that landed in the fairway, just 72 yards from the green at 435-yard first hole.

But Mickelson didn’t take advantage, finessing an approach that went in a bunker short. He came up short again but had a good chip out of the rough on the short side of the green to set up a short putt for bogey.

Mickelson drove down the middle of the fairway on No. 5 and hit a beautiful shot that trickled toward the cup and left him with about a 5-foot birdie putt. But he barely caught the left side of the cup. After tapping in for par, he shook his head as he walked off the green.

Mickelson gave himself a chance, though, to make up ground with an 8-foot eagle putt at No. 6 only to have the horn blow. He marked his ball and took a look at the line he’d have before getting in an SUV to evacuate the course.

It took 17 minutes to get Mickelson and Flesch back to the clubhouse as a caravan slowly made its way from the far end of the course to the clubhouse.

After a 4-hour delay, Mickelson left the course without talking to reporters.

DOESN’T COUNT: U.S. Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger played in the PGA Championship, so he knows how difficult it is to play Oakland Hills.

“It’s the hardest course I’ve ever played,” Azinger said after his third-round 76 left him at 14-over 224.

That speaks volumes considering the source, who is playing in his 66th major and has competed in five Ryder Cups and two Presidents Cups.

The top eight players in the Ryder Cup standings after Sunday’s final round will get automatic berths for next month’s event at Valhalla. Azinger will fill out the rest of the side with four captain’s picks to be announced Sept. 2 in New York City.

Players who struggled at Oakland Hills this week have not doomed their chances, Azinger insisted.

“Doesn’t mean anything,” he said. “This isn’t the Ryder Cup week. We have three weeks to go. I want a guy who is confident and if the guy’s confidence is shattered when he left here, join the club.”

FUN AT THE TURN: Rocco Mediate and Mark Calcavecchia both birdied the par-3 ninth in the third round, the first time in the tournament all the players in a group left the green with scores under par.

That coupled with a midmorning tee time put them in a good mood on the 10th tee, knowing they would get their round in before the expected storms rolled into the Motor City area.

“Have fun at 9 o’clock!” Calcavecchia shouted to D.J. Trahan, who had a 1:20 p.m. starting time and managed to play four holes before play was suspended for the day.

After Mediate hit his drive, he walked over to Trahan on the practice green to shake his hand and say a few words.

Mediate (72) is 9 over for the tournament and Calcavecchia (76) is 13-over 223.

The ninth hole, which was 220 yards with the forward tee used, was the 14th-toughest hole when play was suspended Saturday after being among the most difficult in the first two rounds.

With wind whipping around the course so hard that a sports section flew out of somebody’s hands near the green, some players struggled at the hole Saturday.

John Mallinger sent a 3-wood tee shot that was headed for the middle of the green only to sail into the right rough because of a gust of wind. Japan’s Hiroyuki Fujita, playing in the same group, used a hybrid only to be disappointed when the wind knocked down his tee shot into the fairway. Both ended up bogeying the hole.

KILLIN’ TIME: While play was suspended for over 4 hours, players found anything they could to wait out the weather.

Tom Lehman, who got in seven holes before play was called, said he tried a little bit of everything.

“I spent a lot of time in the fitness trailer; I’ve got an elbow issue,” he said. “So I was warming it up and then I’d go practice, then re-warming it up and then going to practice again. And I was eating, and watching the Olympics, and talking and taking a nap – I just kind of covered all the bases.”

U.S. PRIDE: If an international player wins the PGA Championship, it will the first time Americans didn’t win at least half of the majors since 1994.

Tiger Woods won the U.S. Open in June but had knee surgery soon after and didn’t play in the British Open, won by Ireland’s Padraig Harrington, or the PGA. South Africa’s Trevor Immelman won the Masters.

In 1994, South African Nick Price won two majors (PGA and British) and Spain’s Jose Maria Olazabal (Masters) and South Africa’s Ernie Els (U.S. Open) each won one.

Divots: Ernie Els has won the most money in PGA Championships (nearly $1.4 million) without winning the major. He has made the cut in 13 of 16 starts and finished among the top five in three of the last four. … Detroit Pistons coach Michael Curry and assistant Pat Sullivan were among the faces in the crowd Saturday. Houston Rockets forward Shane Battier, who was a prep star at nearby Detroit Country Day High, was in the gallery during the first round. Battier hadn’t watched a major in person since the final round of the 2001 Masters, when he and Mike Dunleavy were coming off a national championship at Duke and Tiger Woods became the first player to hold all the major titles at the same time.

AP Sports Writer Rusty Miller contributed to this report.

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