This is what the PGA Tour pundits had in mind when they created these made-for-television playoffs-a Saturday leader board packed with names like Mickelson, Singh, McIlroy, Scott, Westwood, Johnson, McDowell, and that guy Woods harvesting birdies in bunches jostling for top position going into Sunday of the last qualifying stage for a limited 30-man Tour Championship at East Lake in Atlanta.
Mickelson, who has been the Nowhere Man all summer, suddenly came alive last week at the Deutsche Bank Championship with a T-4 to move into the top ten in the Fed Ex Cup Standings. The 42 year-old continued his fine play today as he rocketed up the leader board with 10 birdies on his way to shooting 64 to tie for the lead. Mickey hit it in the fairway 70% of the time today and was very accurate in his iron approach game. Using the new claw putting grip Mickelson made putts from everywhere gaining almost 3 strokes in the round on the rest of the field. He is 13th for the week in Strokes Gained Putting and 5th in Putts on Greens In Regulation. For the good of the game, Mickey’s Mojo is back.
It was a page from the past for Vijay Singh who shot 68 to get to 16-under and the lead going into the final round. Putting has been the dybbuk for Vijay the last few years. At 49 years-old he still has the length and ball striking to play with the young bucks. But he has tried more putters, putting grips, and putter grips than Ian Poulter has gaudy shoes in his closet in an effort to find his way back to the winner’s circle. This week he has driven it down the sprinkler line and putted better than everyone else. He has over 30 one-putts in the first 54 holes with an average of only 24 putts per round. The key shot was on the par five fifteenth when he missed the green to a low hollow left of the green and holed an impossible pitch for a birdie to regain the lead. Unfortunately his aging nerves gave way and two bogies in the last three holes provided some life for the chasing posse.
Young Rory McIlroy did not have his A-Game today but he somehow found a 3-under 69 between his wayward driving results. He birdied two of the last four to leave himself only one back of the two geriatrics in the lead. Lee “No Major” Westwood pitched in from behind the green on 10 for the first of his five birdies on in inward nine to tie Rory at 15-under.
Tim Finchem and the boys are smiling anticipating the star-studded Sunday shoot-out that will determine the winner of this championship. It will be interesting to see who will be successful strutting their stuff and Stayin’ Alive for the final lawn party at the Tour Championship in two weeks.