Pacific Palisades, CA – Phil Mickelson struggled a bit on the round lead with reigning PGA Champion Keegan Bradley at the Northern Trust Open.
Mickelson's primary problem was with the driver and that was magnified when he drove into a gentleman's shorts on the 15th hole at Riviera. The leader after the first two rounds shot a one-under 70 and joined Bradley, who posted a five-under 66, atop the leaderboard at seven-under 206.
It should be an interesting battle on Sunday between Mickelson, who won last week at Pebble Beach, and Bradley. After Bradley broke through at Atlanta Country Club last year, he credited Mickelson with taking him under his wing.
"I really look up to him, and I watched him play a lot of Sundays growing up, and it would be really fun to play with him in the final group on Sunday at Riviera," Bradley said.
"I really like Keegan. He's a great guy," gushed Mickelson. "He's a great player, and I think a lot of him. I think he's great for the game and just represents the sport and profession well."
That won't matter come Sunday when the tricky greens at Riviera will test both. The pair also has plenty of stiff competition behind them.
Mickelson began the third round in the lead and started well with a tap-in birdie at the par-five opener. He missed the green at the par-three fourth and couldn't hole a 10-foot par save.
He parred the next six holes, then reached the fringe in two at the par-five 11th. Mickelson two-putted for the birdie and was one shot ahead at seven- under par.
Mickelson plodded along after the birdie, spraying the ball frequently in the left rough. It was most evident at the 15th when his ball landed inside a man's shorts. Mickelson gave him an autographed glove and saved his par.
"I thought I took him out," he said. "It wouldn't be the first time, so I thought for sure I took him out. I didn't realize the ball had rolled up against his shorts."
Mickelson missed the fairway left again at 17, but managed another par. At the par-four closing hole, the four-time major winner hit three-wood off the tee, but pulled it in the right rough. He didn't reach the green with his long approach, but in classic Mickelson style, hit a great chip and saved par to stay tied with Bradley.
It was a tough day for Mickelson, but the two-time former champion was more than pleased.
"This was a great round for me because I did not play well, and I shot one- under par and I'm atop the leaderboard," said Mickelson, who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame this year.
Bradley started with a birdie at one, then inched up the leaderboard with back-to-back 15-foot birdie putts at six and seven.
A tap-in birdie at the short, par-four 10th gave Bradley a share of the lead at six-under par, but trouble loomed at the par-five 11th. His drive landed in the right rough and so did his second. Bradley yanked his third left of the green and he did well to get it to four feet. He missed the par putt to fall off the pace.
Bradley used a late run to get to seven-under par. He knocked his tee shot eight feet right of the flag stick at the 16th and holed the birdie putt to get within one.
He came up just shy of the putting surface with his second at the par-five 17th. Bradley played his third inside two feet and struck home the short birdie putt to join Mickelson in first at minus-seven.
Bradley saved a great par at the last when his approach fell short of the green. He pitched to nine feet and jarred the par save to earn his share of the lead.
"I love the golf course, fits my eye very well, and I seem to be able to figure out these greens, which makes it a lot easier," said Bradley.
NOTES: Mickelson collected his 40th PGA Tour victory last Sunday at Pebble Beach. He hasn't won in consecutive weeks on the PGA Tour since 2006 when he followed a BellSouth Classic win with his second Masters...Twenty-three of his 40 wins came with at least a share of the 54-hole lead...Bradley won the Byron Nelson Championship last year before his major victory at the PGA...World No. 1 Luke Donald made his 2012 PGA Tour debut and after an even-par 71 on Saturday, he is tied for 26th at even-par...The second round was completed on Saturday after darkness stopped play on Friday.