When Phil Mickelson and Jim Furyk turned up as a pairing for Saturday’s third round of the Charles Schwab Cup Championship, it figured to get the fans at Phoenix Country Club fired up. Furyk played at the University of Arizona and Mickelson at Arizona State, and they gave the gallery something to yell other than, “Get in the hole!”
At most greens, depending on whom hit the better shot, there were chants of “A-S-U!” or “Bear Down!” They ultimately had plenty to cheer for both men, with Furyk winning this matchup by making an eagle on the opening hole and scoring six-under-par 65 to Mickelson’s 68 to give himself a chance to capture his first PGA Tour Champions season championship.
Furyk sits at 16 under, one shot ahead of Kirk Triplett, who stumbled in the third round with a 69. Stephen Ames and Steven Alker are two back, and Mickelson is alone in fifth at 13 under.
Heading into the final round, Furyk is on track to seize his first Charles Schwab Cup and become the first player to bookend that with a PGA Tour FedEx Cup title. In so doing, the 51-year-old would overtake 64-year-old Bernhard Langer, who charged into a tie for ninth with a 63 that he capped with an eagle at the 18th.
“Just keep the pedal down,” said Furyk, who’s looking for his fourth Champions Tour win. “My knowledge is the forecast is the exact same, basically playing in bubble, high blue sky, not much breeze. So even par’s not going to be real good, so go out there and try to make some birdies.”
Of the back-and-forth he heard between the state’s fans, Furyk said, “We’re in Sun Devil country, so I heard a lot of ASU out there. Arizona’s pretty big and Phoenix in a massive city, so a third of the folks here went to U of A [in Tucson], so I had some support out there as well. It was fun. It’s great to be back in Arizona, it’s great to have that Arizona-Arizona State rivalry. And I’ve known Phil since we were in high school, so good to be out with someone I’ve played a ton of golf with throughout my career.”
Mickelson had a typically wild round in which he missed a lot of putts early. He struggled on greens he’s called “perfect” and a long session after Friday’s second round didn’t help him early. Lefty said he’s changed his putting setup and has struggled to see the line. “Yesterday I putted awful, as well as the front nine today was terrible,” he said. “I played well enough to shoot a lot round, but I haven’t putted well enough.”
Mickelson had a rollercoaster stretch in the middle of the round. At the 11th, he tried to drive the green, missed it way wide, but hit a phenomenal flop shot to a couple of feet for birdie. At the par-3 12th, his tee shot was lucky to stay on a bank above the water, and he made a lengthy putt just to save bogey. He closed by making birdies on three of his last four holes.
Langer had his incredible round despite continuing to struggle with a sore back. The German eagled his first hole and his last while notching four other birdies.
“It’s one of my best rounds ever, I think, under the circumstances, for sure.” Langer said. “Played very solid. Finally found the groove with the driver and hit some good iron shots as well. I had been putting very good all week, so it’s just a matter of finding the fairways and the greens.
“The back lightened up a little bit—another 10, 20 percent better and made me just a little more free to go after the ball, stay in the shot. The last couple days I just straightened up quite a bit because of the flinching I was doing because of the impact, because of the pain.”