Mickelson takes four-shot lead at FBR Open

Posted: Sunday, February 06, 2005

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Cheered on by tens of thousands who consider him their hometown hero, Phil Mickelson forged a four-shot lead over Kevin Na through three rounds of the FBR Open, a giant party that happens to have a golf tournament going through it.

Mickelson, who tied the course record with a 60 on Friday, shot a 5-under 66 — with birdies on the final two holes — on Saturday for a 14-under 199 total on the 7,216-yard Tournament Players Club course.

''It was a fun round,'' Mickelson said. ''I mean, there's a lot of people out there. It was pretty interesting. It felt like I shot over par because of yesterday, but it was good enough to get in the lead.''

He leads going into a final round for the first time since last year's Masters, and then he was tied with Chris DiMarco.

Na, at 21 the youngest player on the PGA Tour, began the day tied for the lead with Mickelson, and still was even through 14, but his second shot went into the water on the 15th hole, then he missed a short putt to save par.

''From there, that crowd pulling for Phil so much and that little bit of, what do you call it, misstep kind of shook me up a little bit,'' Na said, ''and affected me on the last couple of holes.''

Na bogeyed the 16th and finished with a 70, leaving him four back at 10 under going into the final round of the $5.2 million event.

Champions Skins Game

WAILEA, Hawaii — Jack Nicklaus returned from a long layoff following back surgery to take the Champions Skins Game, winning 11 straight skins and a career-high $340,000 in a runaway victory over Craig Stadler.

Nicklaus, who turned 65 last month and hadn't played a competitive round of golf for months, rode on the back of a cart for much of the round because of a strained hamstring. He had back surgery on Nov. 23.

Stadler, the 2004 Champions Tour player of the year, was second with five skins and $180,000 in his Skins Game debut. Defending champion Tom Watson earned $80,000 for his two late skins, and Arnold Palmer was blanked for the third time in four years.

Nicklaus, also the 1991 winner, sealed the victory in the made-for-TV tournament by holing a 14-foot birdie putt — his third straight birdie — for $40,000 on the 548-yard No. 15th. On the previous hole, Nicklaus hit a spectacular 6-iron to set up a 4-foot birdie putt for five skins and $170,000.

Heineken Classic

MELBOURNE, Australia — Australia's Nick O'Hern shot an 8-under 63 to take the third-round lead in the Heineken Classic, while South African star Ernie Els stayed in contention for a fourth straight title at Royal Melbourne.

O'Hern finished at 14-under 199 to take a one-stroke lead over fellow Australians Jarrod Lyle (66) and Craig Parry (65). Els, who had a 66 after starting his round with a birdie and an eagle, was three shots back along with Australia's Brett Rumford (66).

Scotland's Colin Montgomerie, coming off a second-place tie last week in Singapore, shot a 72 to drop six strokes back.

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