SCOTTSDALE, Ariz.– A desert creature probably saved leader Bubba Watson at least a stroke Saturday in the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Ryan Moore of Puyallup shot a 7-under-par 64 to put him in a tie for third place after three rounds. Some pigskin play hurt Phil Mickelson before the largest crowd in golf history.
Crowd estimates for the PGA Tour event at TPC Scottsdale aren’t done in round numbers, so the record attendance figure for Saturday was 189,722 — surpassing the previous mark of 179,002 set at last year’s third round.
Watson (68) was at 15-under 198, two strokes ahead of Kevin Stadler (67). Moore, Hideki Matsuyama (68) and Harris English (69) were at 12 under.
Moore, a three-time winner on the PGA Tour, played the back nine in 6-under 30.
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“Made a couple bonus putts,” he said.
Seahawks fan Moore is eager to see Sunday’s Super Bowl.
“I have been wearing the colors all week, doing the best I can to represent the Seahawks,” he was quoted as saying in The Arizona Republic.
Watson’s drive on the par-5 13th hole went into a desert bush.
“Right next to my ball was a burrowing-animal hole and my club was going to hit it at impact,” Watson said. “It was big hole and the club would get caught on it. So, I got a free drop and could easily wedge it out.”
Watson hit a 150-yard shot to the fairway to set up a par.
Mickelson (72) made a double bogey on the par-3 16th, a 20,000-seat stadium hole where the Arizona State graduate said he “lost focus” thinking about throwing footballs into the rowdy crowd.
The defending champ, who is at 3 under, half-shanked his tee shot on the 128-yard hole. He followed with a weak shot into a bunker, blasted to 8 feet and two-putted.
“It was a gap wedge. It was pathetic,” Mickelson said. “I don’t even know what to say. I don’t remember ever hitting a shot like that even in practice.”
On the positive side, Mickelson threw some nice football spirals to fans after the tee shot.
• Michael Putnam, who is from University Place, had to finish the last two holes of his second round Saturday morning. Putnam could have made the cut with a score of bogey or better on No. 18, but took a triple-bogey 7 for a round of 76.
• Defending champion Stephen Gallacher had seven birdies and an eagle on the back nine to surge past Rory McIlroy and take a two-stroke lead into the final round of the Dubai Desert Classic.
Gallacher’s 9-under 63 put him at 16-under 200 for 54 holes. McIlroy (69) was in second place.
Top-ranked Tiger Woods (70) was tied for 37th place at 5 under in the European Tour event. Seattle native Fred Couples (73) was tied for 62nd at 2 under.