Phil Mickelson will not be unduly concerned if Tiger Woods chooses to miss the World Cup again next year. Not, that is, if David Toms is his replacement once more at Kiawah Island.
After a dazzling record-equalling third round 57, to which Mickelson contributed an eagle and 10 birdies, the United States went into the closing foursomes at Vista Vallarta in Mexico yesterday only three strokes behind the leaders, Japan.
Mickelson birdied the last three holes, and as he approached the 18th green was greeted by chants in Spanish of "champion, champion". The world No 2 believes it is significant that Toms was the one alongside him rather than Woods.
"Tiger and I get along great and obviously he's the best player in the world," Mickelson said. "But sometimes when we've played together in tournaments we haven't played our best. I tend to play better when I play with David. I felt we made a very good team in the Ryder Cup and I felt heading here that we would be every bit as strong a team as if I'd played it with Tiger."
Woods and Mickelson have never been paired in Ryder or Presidents' Cups and some read into Woods' decision not to play this week that it was caused by a personality clash between the two. The Masters and US Open champion has appeared the last three years, winning with Mark O'Meara and then David Duval and last year losing a play-off with Duval. A change of rules meant it was Mickelson's turn to be alongside him this time, but Woods then announced he was taking the week off.
The fact that a 57 was enough to bring the American pair from 13th to fourth says it all about this week's standard and the relative ease of the Jack Nicklaus course.
The Japanese pair Shigeki Maruyama and Toshi Izawa had a 58 and, with 18 holes to play, they led by one from the Fijians – Vijay Singh and Dinesh Chand – and by two from Rory Sabbatini and Tim Clark of South Africa.
England, namely Justin Rose and Paul Casey, and Scots Paul Lawrie and Alastair Forsyth both shot 62 and remained joint fifth, four behind, while Ireland had the same score and moved up only from 11th to 10th. "I've never seen scoring like it anywhere," said Paul McGinley, seeing his hopes of repeating his 1997 victory with Padraig Harrington fading.
The Welsh pair Ian Woosnam and Bradley Dredge managed a 65, and on 20 under they were 10 back and joint 15th of the 24 sides.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies