Mickelson leads by three

Phil Mickelson hits his tee shot on the second hole during the final round of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am Golf Tournament at Pebble Beach Golf Links Sunday. — Reuters

PEBBLE BEACH — Phil Mickelson was closing in on a fifth Pebble Beach Pro-Am title when darkness halted play in the final round of the weather-hit US PGA Tour tournament.

Mickelson will return to play the last two holes Monday holding a three-shot lead over playing partner Paul Casey.

Red-hot Mickelson and Casey had opposing views on whether to continue as darkness fell, Mickelson putting out for a par at the 16th and saying he was ready to head to 17 as Casey opted to call it a day with a three-foot putt for par in front of him.

The last two groups didn’t tee off until after two weather delays, with rain postponing the start of play for an hour and a hailstorm bringing another two-hour hold-up.

Mickelson, gunning for a 44th US PGA Tour title, was unfazed by the uncertainty.

He started the day three shots off Casey’s lead but roared to the top of the leaderboard with six birdies that put him 18-under for the tournament with two holes remaining.

He gained ground with birdies at the par-five second and the fourth, then made back-to-back birdies at the ninth and 10th — two of the toughest holes on the course.

He curled in a seven-footer for birdie at 13 and drained a six-footer at 14.

Casey, meanwhile, struggled to get anything going. A birdie at the second was followed by eight straight pars before back-to-back bogeys at 11 and 12.

A birdie from the fringe at 14 left him even for the day and 15-under par for the tournament.

American Scott Stallings was in the clubhouse on 15-under after a six-under par 66 with Jason Day of Australian and South Korean Kim Si-woo tied for fourth on 13-under.

Casey called Mickelson’s effort “a phenomenal round of golf” but added: “It’s not over yet”.

Mickelson, who could join Mark O’Meara as the only five-time winners of the tournament, is no stranger to the fickle February weather on the Monterey Peninsula.

The last time the final round was played on Monday was in 2000, when Tiger Woods rallied from a five-shot deficit.

In 2009, rain prevented a planned Monday finish and Dustin Johnson was declared the winner after 54 holes.

Mickelson’s first Pebble Beach title back in 1998 came when the weather was so bad that the final round was actually played on a Monday in August — six months after the tournament began.

“That’s probably a good omen,” Mickelson said. — AFP