Mickelson closing in on another win

Posted: Monday, May 03, 2004

NEW ORLEANS Phil Mickelson stayed away from golf for two weeks after winning the Masters. He wanted to have some fun before returning to work.

This week he's back on the course and still having fun.

Playing in his first tournament since winning at Augusta, Mickelson moved into position to make it two in a row on Sunday at the HP Classic.

''I wasn't sure how it would go after taking time off to do some different things,'' the left-hander said.

Mickelson shot a 69 in the third round to move into a tie for second with Charles Howell III, two strokes behind leader Joe Ogilvie, who was at 17-under 199.

Not the best position, Mickelson said, especially on a course that can give up a lot of birdies when conditions are right.

''I always love to be in the lead, to have a couple of shots to work with,'' Mickelson said. ''Being in the lead at Augusta gave me a chance to play my game by my own game plan and if I made a mistake or two I wouldn't have to really force the issue and I was able to turn that into a victory.''

Being two shots behind means he, Howell and Ogilvie will all have to play exceptional rounds on Monday, Mickelson said.

''Guys behind us will be making charges before we even get on the course,'' Mickelson said. ''I'll have to play a very good round and trailing by two, I won't have the luxury of being able to make mistakes.''

Ogilvie shot a 66 on Sunday.

''My putter kept me in it pretty much all day,'' he said. ''I'm making a lot of putts from 6 and 10 feet that maybe in the last year I haven't made.''

The final round was pushed back to Monday because of rain delays.

Mickelson began the day in a six-way tie for third at 12-under, and moved to 14-under on the front nine before a bogey on No. 9.

He offset that miscue with birdies on 11, 14 and 15, to move within a stroke of Ogilvie. But Mickelson went in the sand on 18, then missed a short putt for a bogey that dropped him two off the lead and left him at 15-under 201.

Ogilvie, looking for his first PGA Tour victory, had six birdies and no bogeys on the round. He had his best finish last week in the Shell Houston Open, finishing tied for 19th, but has made eight of 11 cuts this season.

Second-round leader Danny Ellis shot an 10-over 82 to fall way off the pace after opening rounds of 63 and 66. He was at 5-under.

Howell shot a 1-under 71 in the harsher conditions on Sunday after rounds of 66 and 64.

''The golf course was tough today,'' Howell said. ''I don't think I ever played this golf course with that strong a north wind and with it soggy. Yesterday I hit a driver, 3-wood into No. 2. And today I hit a driver, 8-iron.''

Justin Rose and Hidemichi Tanaka were a three strokes back at 14-under 202.

A group of six players, including Vijay Singh, former champion K.J Choi and Guy Boros, who shot a third-round 63, were tied with a 13-under 203.

''I'm right in there,'' Singh said. ''Hopefully the leaders don't get away. And if it's windy like they say tomorrow, then anyone can win it.''

The $5.1 million tournament was delayed during the first and second rounds because of bad weather. Friday, heavy rain prevented any play.

The weather remained threatening Sunday morning, but the course was dry enough to allow play to resume and 77 players finished their round.

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