June 17, 2006

Mickelson tied for lead at US Open

By Larry Fine

MAMARONECK, New York (Reuters) - Phil Mickelson made a pair
of birdies during a charging finish on the back nine at stingy
Winged Foot to tie Briton Kenneth Ferrie for the lead after
three rounds of the U.S. Open.

While other contenders struggled to match par, birdies at
the 14th and 16th holes enabled Masters champion Mickelson to
post a one-under-par 69 for a two-over 212 total. The American
was five shots from the lead when he made the turn.

Ferrie, a 27-year-old Englishman, played an admirably
steady round as he protected a one-shot lead he took on the
strength of a tap-in eagle at the 515-yard, par-five fifth.

A bogey at the last, where Ferrie's five-foot par putt
failed to fall, dropped the Briton back to two over par for the
tournament and 71 for the day.

Australian Geoff Ogilvy shot a two-over-par 72 to stand one
stroke off the pace at 213, two shots better than Britons Colin
Montgomerie (75) and Ian Poulter (70), Vijay Singh of Fiji (70)
and American Steve Stricker (76), the overnight leader.

Mickelson, gunning for his third consecutive major title
following victories in last year's PGA Championship and the
Masters in April, will be paired with Ferrie, playing in his
first major in the United States.

"This is my first time in this position in a major
championship," said Ferrie. "And it's going to be a little
daunting going into tomorrow."

Mickelson said he was looking forward to the final round.
"It's a lot of fun to have a chance," he said. "I have a lot of
work left to do."


Mickelson said he was not familiar with Ferrie, but
expected a good battle.

"He's in the final group of the U.S. Open so he's got to be
a good player," said world number two Mickelson.

At six over par, four shots off the pace, were former
Masters champion Mike Weir of Canada (71), who double-bogeyed
the ninth and 18th holes, 2003 U.S. Open winner Jim Furyk (74),
who bogeyed the 16th and 17th holes, and Irishman Padraig
Harrington (74), who triple-bogeyed the 18th after mis-hitting
a ball out of the rough.

U.S. journeyman Stricker began the day at one under par
with a one-shot lead over Montgomerie, the eight-times European
number one who is still in search of his first major.

Montgomerie faded fast, losing five strokes to par over the
first four holes, going bogey, bogey, double-bogey and bogey as
his usually reliable tee shots deserted him.

Stricker started with four successive pars and then birdied
the fifth to reach two under par, but unravelled soon after,
posting five bogeys and a double-bogey the rest of the way.

Mickelson, 36, struggled to keep his tee shots in the
fairway on the front side, hitting only two of seven, going out
in one-over 36. On the back nine he hit eight of nine.


"I obviously didn't strike it the front nine the way I
wanted to and was playing from the rough and fighting for pars
on a lot of holes," he said, adding that finding fairways at
the end of his round was crucial.

"It was huge because I could go at the pins," said
Mickelson, who narrowly missed a birdie putt at the 18th, where
a treacherous pin placement made it Saturday's hardest hole.

"As soon as my ball goes in the rough, I'm fighting for
par, and you mindset changes. As soon as I hit the fairway, I
think I can have a chance for a birdie."

Ferrie held firm as other contenders faltered.

He would have held the outright lead if not for his
three-putt at the 18th, where a strong approach shot carried
into the fringe. He putted through the fringe short of the cup
and needed two more to get down.

"It was a sad way to finish, but 71 in the third round of a
major championship is never bad," said Ferrie.

"Obviously Phil is going to be the huge favorite," Ferrie
said about playing in the final group with Mickelson. "Nobody
is really going to give me a chance of winning this tournament
with Phil moving his way up through the field.

"If I can go out there and do what I've done for the last
few days and get a few breaks to go my way, there's no reason I
can't be up there."