Mickelson in the mood to be as handy as Sandy

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The Independent Online

Not since Sandy Lyle in 1988 has anybody won the last tournament before the Masters and then won at Augusta as well. But Phil Mickelson is determined to give himself yet another chance to change that.

The world No 4 took a six-stroke lead into the third round of the BellSouth Classic here yesterday.

Mickelson is trying for his third victory in seven years at the event. But after he beat Jack Nicklaus's son Gary in a play-off in 2000 he finished seventh in the Masters, and following his success in a five-man shoot-out last season he came 10th. However, when asked yesterday if there was any temptation to take his foot off the pedal, Mickelson said: "No. Good heavens - are you kidding me? I want to play as well as I can. It only breeds confidence."

The left-hander's two brilliant opening rounds, a course record-equalling 63 and then a 65, enabled him to achieve not only a tournament record halfway total of 16 under par, but also the best 36-hole score of his US Tour career. "I felt I was trying to make birdie every hole," he added.

The American JJ Henry is his closest rival, while Spain's Jose Maria Olazabal moved up from 47th to third with a best-of-the-day 64.

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