Mickelson makes run, ties for lead

SAN DIEGO — The way Phil Mickelson likes to play golf, he didn't have much fun Saturday at Torrey Pines.

Based on how he needs to play the South Course, Phil was thrilled.

Mickelson gave up on his swashbuckling style by playing it safe in the Farmers Insurance Open, making eight pars and a birdie on the back nine for a 4-under 68 that gave him a share of the lead with Bill Haas.

"This course doesn't reward you for taking on any challenge," Mickelson said. "Any my more conservative approach into the greens, albeit boring, has led me to be on top of the leaderboard."

He was joined by Haas, who kept one shot ahead of Mickelson for most of the back nine until his wedge hopped hard on the firm green and went just over the back on the par-5 18th. He missed a 4-foot par putt and had to settle for a 1-under 71.

They were at 12-under 204, a stroke ahead of Hunter Mahan and Bubba Watson, who each made eagle on the 18th.

Tiger Woods, who has not lost at Torrey Pines in seven years, was nowhere to be found.

His start to a new season brought out a familiar result. Just like so much last year, Woods goes into a final round out of contention on a course where he once dominated. Woods made bogey from the second fairway with a wedge in his hand, and his day didn't improve. He shot a 2-over 74, ending his streak of 21 straight rounds at par or better on the South Course in a tour event.

"I did not play well at all today," said Woods, who was eight shots behind. "It was a struggle all day, and I finally found something at 16. But 15 holes already had gone by, so that was pretty frustrating."

Mickelson's frustrations are entirely different, only at least he felt like he was winning the battle.

Torrey Pines always felt like home to Mickelson, who grew up in San Diego playing this public gem along the Pacific bluffs. He won the Buick Invitational three times, the last title coming 10 years ago. And then Rees Jones came in to revamp the South Course to get ready for the U.S. Open in 2008.

Since then, Mickelson has not finished better than fourth, and he has criticized Jones for changing the nature of Torrey.

Mickelson, whose reputation has been built on taking on risks, decided to go a different route.

"I love playing aggressive," he said. "I think people want to see birdies and they want to see bogeys. They want to see us attacking holes trying to get it close. And this course just doesn't reward you for taking any risk. In fact, it penalizes you. That's why I've kind of steadily worked my way up without too many mistakes."

Even with his longtime nemesis out of the way, Mickelson doesn't see an easy path to winning.

Mahan and Watson each had 69 and were at 11-under 205. Another shot back was Anthony Kim, showing signs of turning his game around. Kim escaped with only a bogey on the 15th after an adventure through the eucalyptus trees, and birdied the 18th for a 71.

John Daly, who pulled within one shot of the lead early in the third round, fell apart with a string of bogeys and shot 76.

Mickelson made only one birdie on the par 5s, and one birdie on the back nine, although it was a dandy. With a breeze in his face, he hit 4-iron with a slight cut just in front of the green and saw it roll 6 feet away to the front flag.

Haas was paying attention to that one, a sign of what he faces in the final round.

"It was a shot that I don't have," he said. "And if I did have it, I wouldn't try it."

Champions Skins Game

At Kaanapali, Hawaii, Bernhard Langer made an 8-foot birdie putt on the sixth hole for four skins and $120,000, giving the German star and partner Mark O'Meara in the Champions Skins Game.

Fuzzy Zoeller and Ben Crenshaw, the 2009 winners, were second with $80,000 after the first nine holes in the two-day, 18-hole event. Zoeller made a bending 20-foot birdie putt on the eighth for two skins.

Defending champions Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson won the first two skins when Nicklaus hit his iron shot to 2 feet on No. 2 and Watson tapped in for $60,000.

Fred Couples and Nick Price were shut out on the first nine at Royal Kaanapali.

With a $40,000 carryover from No. 9, $510,000 was available on the back nine today.

Volvo Champions

At Riffa, Bahrain, England's Paul Casey shot a 6-under 66 for a share of the third-round lead with Sweden's Peter Hanson in the Volvo Champions.

Hanson shot a 67 to match Casey at 16-under 200 on The Royal Golf Club's Montgomerie Course. Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke and James Kingston were a stroke back after 67s.

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