SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. —
Making his 24th appearance in the event that he won in 1996 and 2005, Mickelson is trying to complete his third wire-to-wire victory and first since the 2006 BellSouth Classic — a 13-stroke blowout the week before the second of his three Masters victories.
“To me, the wire-to-wire isn’t that important except for now I’m three rounds and the fourth one is kind of the more important one,” Mickelson said.
“It would be an important thing because it’s meant so much to me over my career having won this tournament, coming back as a past champion, and winning here in the town that has meant so much to me, to (wife) Amy and I, where we met, had our first two kids, went to college. It’s a special place.”
He’s in position to match the tournament record of three victories set by Arnold Palmer and matched by Gene Littler and Calcavecchia. Mickelson won the last of his 40 PGA Tour titles 51 weeks ago at Pebble Beach.
The left-hander played the first 12 holes in 2 under, making a 20-foot birdie putt on the par-4 first and a 25-footer on the par-4 fifth. He got up and down from greenside bunkers for birdies on the par-5 13th and 15th holes, followed with the tap-in on 16, then chipped to 2 feet on the 337-yard 17th.
“My short game is what gave me that momentum,” Mickelson said. “The bunker shots I hit on 13 and 15 were really good as well as the chip on 17.”