Fairways through the years generally have been moving targets for Phil Mickelson, who encountered them again at the Cologuard Classic on Saturday, ending his bid to win a third straight PGA Tour Champions start.
For the second straight day, Mickelson hit one tee shot out of bounds and another into a penalty area at Omni Tucson National, the lowlights of a round with too few highlights. He shot a two-under par 71 and trails leader Mike Weir by nine.
Even were he in second place, it almost certainly would qualify as an insurmountable deficit. But there are 21 other players he would have to overtake in the final round on Sunday to become the first in the history of the senior tour to win his first three starts.
“I’m pretty frustrated,” he said. “I feel like I”m playing a lot better than I’m scoring. I made one mental lapse yesterday and today, both caused out of bounds, and on holes where you shouldn’t hit it out. And I’m just down. We’ve got one more round. I’m going to come out tomorrow and play as well as I can and see if I can get a little bit of momentum and make a move.”
Also-ran is not a designation Mickelson wears comfortably, though he has become increasingly familiar with it in recent months, to wit his anemic PGA Tour performances — four missed cuts and no higher finish than a tie for 44th in eight starts in the wraparound season.
His first senior start of 2021 has not been the answer. Mickelson, 50, hit only eight of 14 fairways in each of the first two rounds and ranks near the bottom of the field in driving accuracy. His drive on the par-5 second hole went out of bounds, leading to a double bogey. On the par-5 15th hole, he hit his tee shot into water, though he was able to salvage par.
Meanwhile, Weir, a former Masters champion seeking his first senior victory in this his 12th start, followed an opening-round 66 with a six-under 67. He birdied four straight holes late in his round, only to bogey the 18th, and has a two-stroke lead over Kevin Sutherland and a three-stroke lead over Scott Parel and Scott Verplank.
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