Golf: Mickelson clings to share of Riviera lead

LOS ANGELES: Four-time major winner Phil Mickelson clung to a share of the lead after 54 holes of the Northern Trust Open on Saturday, alongside 2011 US PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Keegan Bradley.

Bradley, whose outstanding 2011 campaign included a major title with his playoff victory in the PGA Championship, had six birdies in a five-under 66 on the par-71 Riviera Country Club layout and was the first in the clubhouse on seven-under 206.

Mickelson, who began the day with a one-shot lead, got to one-under for the day with a birdie at the par-five 11th, but couldn't find another birdie the rest of the way in his erratic one-under 70.

Mickelson and Bradley were one shot in front of Americans Bryce Molder, Jonathan Byrd and Pat Perez.

Molder also posted a 66, while Byrd carded a 69 and Perez a 70.

The crowded leaderboard included another three players just two shots back on 208, including defending champion Aaron Baddeley of Australia - who shot a 66 - Dustin Johnson (67) and Bill Haas (68).

Australian Jarrod Lyle (71) and Ryan Moore (68) were a further shot back on 209.

Bradley had seized a share of the lead with his fourth birdie of the day at the 10th, a driveable par-four where he two-putted from the front edge of the green.

"Probably couldn't hit it in a more perfect spot," he said. "It's a tough hole, and I just was able to two-putt for birdie."

Although he gave a shot back with a bogey at the par-five 11th, Bradley responded with back-to-back birdies at the par-three 16th and par-five 17th. He made a nine-footer for par at the last to ensure he'd play in the final group on Sunday with Mickelson, a two-time winner at Riviera who is seeking a second title in as many weeks after winning at Pebble Beach last Sunday.

"That's kind of why I was excited to make that putt on the last hole," said Bradley, who added he "really looks up" to Mickelson. "Any time you play with Phil means you're playing pretty well. I enjoy the atmosphere and everything that comes with playing with Phil."

Bradley, nephew of LPGA great Pat Bradley, said he was familiar with the history of Riviera long before he played this tournament as a tour rookie last year.

He missed the cut by one stroke and "sulked" for a week. Since going on to win the Byron Nelson Championship and then the PGA Championship, however, that disappointment seems a long time ago.

"I have come a long way," Bradley said. "I can barely remember it honestly. It's pretty remarkable to see in one year I get to come back here as a major champion, a tournament winner, and have a chance to win."

- AFP/de

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