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Sunday, January 19, 2014

A 63 Kind of Day

Desert golf is generally low-scoring golf. The fairways are hard and fast, the winds aren't too bad, and the heat makes the ball fly. (Plus, if you've got tight muscles, it can loosen those up as well.) But on Saturday some players just went crazy low.

Over in Dubai, after struggling for a couple of days, Phil Mickelson teed off  quite a while before the leaders... and calmly shot a 9-under 63 to take the tournament lead at -10. You heard me right -- not to catch up, but to TAKE the lead. And for a long time it looked as if no one was going to catch him. Gaganjeet Bhullar (66) finally caught up to him and Craig Lee (69) got it to -12. The three of them will be in the final group on Sunday.

A quick note on Phil's round: He only had 22 putts! He was making the short game look ridiculously easy. He finished with 9 birdies, an eagle, and 2 bogeys.

Rory was a bit of an enigma. He started slow, then got it to -11 only to find that he had a 2-shot penalty for an improper drop. (He had his foot on the line marking ground under repair, so he was deemed "not to have taken full relief.") He's still playing well, and he's still got a chance to win -- he's only 3 shots off the lead and will be in the second-to-last group -- but he clearly wasn't happy about what he called "a stupid rule." (I agree with him; I think a lot of golf rules are silly. But a rule's a rule.)

I don't know if Phil will get it done today, but you've got to like his chances if his putter stays hot.

Patrick Reed

Back in the American desert, Patrick Reed shot his third straight 63. He obliterated the 54-hole scoring record with his -27 total and now has a 7-shot lead on Charley Hoffman and Brendon Todd.

Nobody's ever lost with that kind of lead when they went that low. (In case you didn't know, there are 3 players who have shot -25 for 54 holes and 3 more who have shot -24.) Nick Faldo noted that Patrick deserves some credit for going so low when he wasn't surrounded by the crowds to keep him "hyped up." But I don't think that's so surprising -- remember, Patrick Monday-qualified for 6 tournaments in 2012 before he got his Tour card. In fact, he said he would approach the final round as if it was a Monday qualifier, as if everybody was starting even and having to shoot as low as possible.

I really like his chances to win Sunday, even though he'll have to do it with the crowds watching. After all, he got his first win last season in a playoff against Jordan Spieth. Between that and the Monday qualifying, he clearly knows how to deal with pressure.

I should also note that Bernhard Langer went low in Hawaii to tie the lead there with Fred Couples. It was only a 64 but, given his thumb injury, that's not too shabby either.

Don't you wish YOU could have a 63 kind of day?

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