Phil Mickelson has notable company atop the leaderboard in the PGA Championship.
Mickelson temporarily lost the lead during the third round but ended Saturday with a one-shot edge on Brooks Koepka at The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island, S.C.
Mickelson and Koepka both shot 2-under-par 70s. Mickelson is at 7-under 209 going into Sunday’s final round.
Mickelson, 50, is bidding to become the oldest winner of a major championship. He’s also aiming to end a two-year victory drought on the PGA Tour.
South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen, who shared the lead with Mickelson at the tournament’s midway mark, shot 72 and holds third place at 5 under. Kevin Streelman (70) is next at 4 under.
There was little change in the top portion of the leaderboard for most of the day.
Then Koepka pulled even with Mickelson before a bogey on No. 18.
Mickelson said his key to success this week has been avoiding freefalls when something goes awry.
“I’ve been able to make some adjustments and not let a couple of the poor shots or poor strokes affect the overall round, which is something I haven’t been doing as well,” said Mickelson, who finished his round with five consecutive pars.
Koepka has a reputation of playing best when conditions or course set-ups aren’t ideal. This tournament fits that requirement as golfers battled ever-changing winds.
“It’s a major,” Koepka said. “It’s going to be tough, especially with the wind blowing. It doesn’t matter, just go out and go play.”
Koepka, 31, doesn’t have the experience that Mickelson holds, but his championship background is impressive. He’s a two-time U.S. Open winner and he won the PGA Championship in 2018 and 2019.
Koepka missed time this spring because of mid-March knee surgery. He’s still rounding into form following that layoff and he has pointed out that the golf activity is the easy part.
“This was all easy,” Koepka said. “Everything I did in rehab was a hell of a lot harder, I can promise you that.”
Mickelson was 4 under for the round through a bogey-free 11 holes. He gave a shot back with a bogey on the par-4 12th and then was struck with a double-bogey on the next hole.
So suddenly Koepka was just one stroke back before finally catching up.
South Africans Christiaan Bezuidenhout (72) and Branden Grace (72) are tied for fifth.
Reigning U.S. Open champion Bryson DeChambeau is lurking after finishing with 71, sitting in a seventh-place tie with Gary Woodland (72) and Chile’s Joaquin Niemann (71) at 2 under.
“I’m just creeping up that leaderboard slowly but surely,” said DeChambeau, who gained five positions in the tournament standings.
“I’m pretty proud and happy the way I handled my round and the way I played the back nine, and finishing under par is pretty good,” Niemann said.
The best round of the day belonged to Jordan Spieth, who posted 68 and moved to even par for the tournament in a tie for 13th. Billy Horschel also had 68, and he’s 1 over for the three rounds.
“Very pleased with climbing back to even,” Spieth said. “I hate being over par at a golf course. I mean, it’s like my biggest pet peeve regardless of when it is in the tournament and I just hate seeing an over-par score next to my name. So it’s nice to be tied with the course with a chance to beat it (in the final round).”
First-round leader Corey Conners of Canada steadied himself before a bogey on the last hole. He shot 73, going 1 under for the tournament to hold a share of 10th place.
Defending champion Collin Morikawa dropped out of contention with a 74, sinking to 3 over.
The weekend action was already without Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas, who rank No. 1 and 2, respectively, in the world rankings. They both missed the cut by one stroke.
–Field Level Media
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