Phil Mickelson maintains 2-shot lead in Desert Classic

Phil Mickelson made three long birdie putts on the back nine Saturday to take a two-stroke lead into the final round of the PGA Tour’s Desert Classic at La Quinta (Riverside County).

Making his first start of the year, Mickelson shot a bogey-free 6-under-par 66 on the Stadium Course at PGA West to get to 22-under 194.

He topped the leaderboard for the third straight day after matching his career-low score with an opening 60 at La Quinta Country Club and shooting a 68 on Friday on PGA West’s Nicklaus Tournament Course.

“It’s so fun,” Mickelson said. “I just love being in contention, having a chance to win, being in the final group, feeling the nerves, feeling that excitement, the opportunity. It’s just, it’s really fun.”

Adam Hadwin was second after a 65 on the Nicklaus layout. Adam Long was third at 19 under after a 63 at La Quinta, and Steve Marino had a 67 on the Nicklaus layout to get to 18-under. Defending champion Jon Rahm was tied for seventh at 16-under after a 68 at the Stadium.

LPGA Tour: Lydia Ko shot 30 on the front nine to catch the leaders and stayed bogey-free for a 5-under 66 to share the lead with Eun-Hee Ji going into the final round of the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. They were at 13-under 200. Brooke Henderson (70) and Nelly Korda (65) were two shots back.

The LPGA Tour season opener also includes a 49-player field of celebrities and athletes competing for a $500,000 purse. Hall of Fame pitcher John Smoltz had 39 points, giving him a four-point lead over retired A’s pitcher Mark Mulder.

PGA Tour Champions: Tom Lehman rallied to win the season-opening Mitsubishi Electric Championship in Kailua, Hawaii, taking advantage of David Toms’ closing three-putt bogey. Lehman, 59, closed with his second straight 7-under 65 for a one-stroke victory over Toms. Lehman finished at 17-under 199 at windy Hualalai.

Bernhard Langer and 2018 winner Jerry Kelly each shot 67 to tie for third at 14-under. Fred Couples (66) and Kevin Sutherland (63) followed at 12-under.

European Tour: Shane Lowry made birdie on the last hole to finish off a wire-to-wire victory in the Abu Dhabi Championship. Lowry’s three-shot lead to start the final round was gone in three holes, and he trailed Richard Sterne by four with seven holes to play before recovering for a 1-under 71 for a one-shot win at 18-under 270.

This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/sports/article/Phil-Mickelson-maintains-2-shot-lead-in-Desert-13547509.php.

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