Phil Mickelson withdrew after 10 holes of the third round Saturday at the Texas Valero Open, while Matt Kuchar made his presence known, moving into second place with a 7-under 65 at the TPC San Antonio golf course. Australian Steven Bowditch still leads the tournament at 12 under par, three shots better than Kuchar and Andrew Loupe.
Mickelson apparently pulled an oblique muscle on his drive on the tenth hole, his first hole of the day. He said he was trying to “hit the ball hard” and said the pain lasted for 10 to 12 seconds. He played with the pain for nine more holes, finally deciding to call it quits and taking a cart back to the clubhouse. This is the second time Lefty has withdrawn from a tournament this year, leaving the Farmer’s Insurance Open in January due to back pain.
Meanwhile Kuchar teed off early and turned in the best 18-hole score of the Texas Valero Open this week, making 8 birdies and one bogey for a 7-under 65 in his third round. His score included a sizzling 31 on the front nine, then three more birdies and a bogey on the back nine to move to 9 under for the event. He is now tied for second, 3 strokes out of the lead.
Second-round leader Steven Bowditch is still the leader after the third round. Lost in the excitement of Kuchar’s 65, Bowditch put together his third sub-70 round of the tournament with a 4-under 68. He actually increased his one-shot lead to three on Saturday in the quest for his first win on the PGA tour. Making Bowditch’s Saturday round more impressive was the fact that he hit only 8 of 18 greens in regulation, putting chip after chip within one-putt range and saving pars. He holed two chips to begin his round, making birdie on the first hole and eagle on the second.
Tied with Kuchar is Andrew Loupe, who could have been alone in second place if not for bogeys on two of the final three holes. Loupe had five birdies and three bogeys on the day for a 2-under 70 and a 54-hole total of 207. Several other players are within striking distance of the lead for the final round on Sunday. Pat Perez, despite a double bogey on the eighth hole, shot 69 on Saturday and is alone in fourth place at 8 under par. Kevin Na is one more back at 7 under. Daniel Summerhays and Chad Collins are next at 210, 6 under par.
Phil Mickelson has not had a top-10 finish this year, and was a late entry in the Texas Valero Open as he wanted to get in more competitive rounds before the Masters in two weeks. Ironically, the injury that caused Mickelson to withdraw from the San Antonio tournament, and may hurt his chances in the upcoming Masters, could have been caused by his effort to prepare for the Masters. Caddie Jim MacKay said Mickelson had been hitting a lot of drivers in the tournament and “hitting them harder” to simulate his play at Augusta National. He is slated to play in next week’s Shell Houston Open but his status is uncertain after the incident on Saturday.
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Commentary by Chuck Podhaisky