PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Andy Mickelson, an apprentice at Mistwood Golf Club in Romeoville, Illinois, carded a bogey-free 68 and is the 54-hole leader at the 39th National Car Rental PGA Assistant Championship, which is taking place on the Wanamaker Course at PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie, Florida.
At 15-under, Mickelson leads Adam Rainaud of South Hadley, Massachusetts by two shots. Six players will enter Sunday’s final round within six strokes of Mickelson.
Mickelson’s three-day total of 201 includes just a single bogey, which came on the par-5 7th hole on Thursday. Since that hiccup, Mickelson has played 47 consecutive holes at par or better.
“I am driving it great right now and I’ve hit a ton of greens. So yes, I am staying out of trouble,” said Mickelson. “I’m not putting incredibly well, but if you have enough looks, you’ll find a few birdies. My target number today was 69. I figured if I shot that, I’d have the lead heading into the final round. So I did one better and that’s a big positive.”
Mickelson’s stoic demeanor is indicative of his self-described “steady” play.
After a stint outside of the game, Mickelson returned to teaching last September. He had been working for a packaging company, specializing in supply chain management, and the experience provided a healthy dose of perspective for Mickelson.
For instance, leading this prestigious Championship after 54 holes hasn’t ruffled any feathers, “I’m comfortable, pretty low key and relaxed right now. My swing has been really good all week. I plan to keep the same swing thoughts and see what happens tomorrow.”
Rainaud, meanwhile, carried the momentum of his first career double eagle, which came Friday on the par-5 7th hole (his 16th hole of the afternoon), into today’s third round.
His morning started strong, as he posted birdies at 3, 4, 7 and 9. His 4-under front 9 today was better than his 3-under tally on the same 9 on Thursday and Friday, combined. From there, Rainaud finished 2-under on the Wanamaker’s back side.
This Championship has a familiar for Rainaud. In 2010, he was the Sunday leader by two with just eight holes left to play, but was overtaken by a Frank Bensel of Purchase, New York, who ultimately secured the first of his three National Car Rental Assistant Championships.
When thinking back to 2010, Rainaud was never disappointed in his play that afternoon, “Frank got hot and he stole it from me, but I did not lose it. He just played very well down the stretch. As for tomorrow, I just want to get off to a good start, like I did in 2010. If I do that, if I hit fairways and greens, I’ll take my chances.”
By firing a 6-under, 66 today, Trent Rommann of Wichita, Kansas is 12-under, in third place and three shots behind Mickelson at 204. Shane Pierce of Anna, Texas is alone in fourth place at 11-under, 205. Scott Berliner (10-under, 206) of Saratoga Springs, New York has sole possession of fifth place.
Ben Polland of Manhasset, New York, a member of the United States PGA Cup Team last month, shot a 65 on Saturday to remind everyone why he was one of the favorites heading into the week. He is tied for sixth place with Daniel Iceman III of Shelbyville, Kentucky.
“I tightened things up a bit, avoided mistakes and was able to post a clean round,” said Polland, who jumped 23 spots on the leaderboard today. “Today was important for many reasons. I’m also prepping for Q School, which begins on November 17. This is a great four-day tournament to do that. There are so many strong players here."
Sub-par scores recorded by round: Saturday (26/70), Friday (44/133), Thursday (43/133).
Mickelson (68-65-68) and Rommann (69-69-66) are the only players to register all three rounds in the 60s this week on the Wanamaker Course.
Through three days, Mickelson is 4-under on the short par-4 8th hole. He birdied the hole today for the second time this week. On Friday, he eagled the 8th.
The field’s only woman, Karen Paolozzi of Atlanta, Georgia, shot a second consecutive 73 today. She is 1-under for the Championship and tied for 37th place.
Defending Champion Grant Sturgeon (70-76-72, 218) of Port Chester, New York is tied for 50th place.
The Championships’ first-round leader, Alan Morin, is tied for 18th after carding a third-round 74 today. In the spirit of the holiday, Morin wore orange and black Halloween-themed pants.
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