One shot back of McIlroy with two holes to play, Mickelson hit two wedges into the water on the par-5 eighth and took a quadruple-bogey 9. His 71 dropped him to T28.
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Though he failed to card a single birdie on Thursday, Mickelson dropped 9 birdies and an eagle on Saturday.
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"I just love the fact I am in contention and have an opportunity in my first tournament of the year here in Abu Dhabi," Mickelson said. "The biggest thing for me is that each day as the tournament has progressed I have felt a lot sharper and sharper."
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After nearly missing the cut, Phil Mickelson shot a 9-under 63 on Saturday, the best round of the day, to move into a tie for second place, two shots off the lead.
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Phil Mickelson shot a two-under 68 on day one of the FedEx St. Jude Classic.
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He had four birdies over his first seven holes.
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Mickelson will attempt to complete the career grand slam next week with a win at the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay.
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Ben Crane had a 66 on Thursday.
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Dustin Johnson withdrew from the tournament during the first round, citing injury.
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Greg Owen had a share of the early lead at six under.