Golf: Tiger nowhere to be found as Mickelson leads
By Doug Ferguson
DORAL, Fla. ó The CA Championship looks like any other big golf tournament held over the last nine months.
Phil Mickelson brings some star power. He built a two-shot lead Friday by chipping in for birdie for the third time and smoking a 3-wood from 245 yards around the palm trees and over the water, setting up another birdie.
The group chasing him includes two guys who already have won this year ó Nick Watney (Buick Invitational), who shot 67 and was two shots behind; and Kenny Perry (FBR Open), who had a 64 and was another shot back.
And Tiger Woods was nowhere to be found.
Only this time, he’s actually playing in the tournament.
Mickelson finished strong for the second straight day and put himself in the last group at Doral for the first time in three years. His foil on the Blue Monster typically is Woods, but Lefty will be keeping different company this time.
Woods was 10 shots behind.
“It kind of (stinks),” Mickelson said. “I hope he comes out tomorrow and plays a great round and makes a move. I would love to get him back from ’05. I came close in ’05 and got beat, and I would love the opportunity to play head-to-head.”
Mickelson was at 13-under 131.
and will have to settle for Watney, the only player at Doral who has yet to make a bogey.
Rory McIlroy, the 19-year-old from Northern Ireland who is trying to become the youngest PGA Tour winner in history, finished with an eagle and a birdie on two dangerous holes for a 66 and was two shots behind.
Woods beat Mickelson in an electric final round four years ago at Doral that came down to the last shot. They were paired again in the last group in the third round in 2006, and Woods got the best of him again.
This time, however, Woods looks like just another player in the field.
He again struggled with his distance control, the frustration growing with every shot too long or too short, leaving him few birdie chances. He made some progress, though ó a 70, one shot better than the day before.
But he was at 3-under 141 and in a tie for 35th in the 80-man field at this World Golf Championship. Told that Mickelson was disappointed he could not face Woods, the world’s No. 1 player smiled.
“Me, too,” he said. “What am I? Ten back? That’s not a very good spot to be in. Hopefully, tomorrow I can shoot a good round and at least give myself somewhat of a chance going into Sunday.”
Woods returned from knee surgery two weeks ago in match play, but this is first stroke-play event since he won the U.S. Open last June, and it showed. It was the first time in his 19 starts at a WGC event that he has failed to break 70 the first two rounds.
And he has never been this low on the leaderboard at any time, let alone the weekend.
“I need to play well and I need to have help, and that’s the problem when you’re so far back,” Woods said. “You’re not really in control of your destiny being that far back.”
He didn’t have much control of his shots, either.
The worst of it came on the par-5 10th, when he was in the middle of the fairway with a 3-iron in his hand. Feeling it should have been a 4-iron, Woods blocked it into the bunker. He blasted out long and onto the fringe, caught the lip with his birdie putt, then missed his 3-foot putt for par. It was his first bogey on a par 5 at Doral since the 12th hole in the second round in 2005.
Mickelson also made bogey on a par 5 at No. 12 when he hooked his first tee shot out of play. But he escaped with a bogey, and that was the only big blunder of the round. He ran off three birdies in a four-hole stretch starting on the 14th hole.
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