SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Phil Mickelson drew the loudest roars from the biggest crowd in golf history Saturday at the Phoenix Open.
Mickelson nearly aced the par-3 16th, hitting a 9-iron to a foot to set up a birdie on the rowdy stadium hole packed with nearly 20,000 screaming fans.
Estimated at 179,022, the third-round crowd broke the record of 173,210 set last year, also on a Saturday at fan-friendly TPC Scottsdale. The event has drawn 467,030 for the week and is in position to break the mark of 538,356 set in 2008.
Mickelson birdied the final four holes and five of the last six for a 7-under 64 and a six-stroke lead over Brandt Snedeker.
The 42-year-old former Arizona State star has led after each round, opening with a 60 and shooting a 65 on Friday. He fell a stroke short of the tour record for the first 54 holes, and matched the tournament mark set by Mark Calcavecchia in 2001.
Making his 24th appearance in the event that he won in 1996 and 2005, Mickelson is trying to complete his third career 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.
He also is 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.
A day after making a double-bogey 6 on the 18th when he hit a 3-wood drive into the water on the left, Mickelson blasted driver over the water and into the grandstand. He got a free drop, hit to 15 feet and holed the putt to another round of loud cheers.
Snedeker had a 65 to reach 18 under.
Padraig Harrington and Ryan Moore were tied for third at 16 under. Harrington, making his first appearance in the event, shot a 63, and Moore had a 65.
Harrington is winless on the PGA Tour since sweeping the British Open and PGA Championship in 2008, and hasn’t won anywhere since the Asian Tour’s 2010 Johor Open.
On the 16th, the 41-year-old Irishman kicked footballs — official Super Bowl models provided by Wilson, also his equipment manufacturer — into the crowd. He kicked the first ball field-goal style, and then punted the rest as he made his way to the green.
Drawing “Ole! Ole!” chants from the crowd, Harrington ran his 15-foot birdie putt 4 feet past and made the comebacker for par.
DIVOTS: Mickelson also led wire-to-wire in 2005 at Pebble Beach. ... Bill Haas, four strokes behind Mickelson at the start of the round, had a 70 to drop 10 shots back. Keegan Bradley, playing alongside Mickelson and Haas in the final group, had a 73 to fall to 10 under. ... Defending champion Kyle Stanley was 3 over after a 74.MORE IN Sports Wire
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