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Mickelson blows up, Singh moves up

Times Staff Writer

PEBBLE BEACH -- It was a busy Saturday at the AT&T; National Pebble Beach Pro-Am, where Phil Mickelson missed the cut by taking way too many shots to play the 14th hole at Pebble Beach and Vijay Singh moved into a tie for the lead by using a small amount of shots to maneuver his way around Spyglass Hill.

Go figure how Mickelson, the defending champion, can miss the cut. The recipe is simple. Crack two balls out of bounds on the same hole, mix well for an 11 and you’re thoroughly baked.

Singh’s path to a share of the lead with Dudley Hart was uncluttered, a five-under-par 67 that included a 32 on the back nine, a 40-foot eagle putt at the 11th and more encouraging signs that his rebuilt swing is coming together.

Besides his 32nd PGA Tour victory, Singh is aiming for an improved swing that produces greater distance, with his hands positioned higher and the club pointing more down the line instead of pointing left to the target, which has been his habit.

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“I get a little bit more power coming into the shot and I’ve picked up a few more yards as well,” he said. “That’s a pretty good reason for me to do it. It feels good too.”

There’s nothing like a bogey-free round at Spyglass to lighten the step, and that’s what Hart accomplished.

After his four-under 68, Hart is in at nine-under 207, the same as Singh, and the highest 54-hole lead score here since 1990. Hart, whose second and last tournament win was eight years ago, is trying to make the most of a new chance, after he took five months off last year when his wife had cancer surgery.

Hart, 39, was granted a major medical extension because of his family issues. With his wife recovering, Hart assumed much of the responsibility for their 6-year-old triplets.

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Hart’s personal experience probably mirrors what putting is like on these sometimes bumpy greens.

“I just come here and try to say, you know what, hopefully for every one that bounces off-line, maybe one will bounce back on-line and go in for me,” Hart said.

Singh doesn’t have a top 10 in four tournaments to start the year and hasn’t begun a season with five straight events without a top 10 in 11 years.

If the co-leaders want to take notice, the last five winners of this tournament held at least a share of the 54-hole lead.

There are eight players within three shots of Singh and Hart, including rookie Dustin Johnson and veteran Michael Allen. Johnson, 23, who survived all three stages of qualifying school, shot a 68 at Pebble Beach and is tied for third at seven-under 209, the same as Allen, 49, who had a 71 at Pebble.

Johnson, who holed out from 85 yards to eagle the 13th hole, also chipped in for an eagle Friday at Spyglass.

Even though Allen is moving closer to the Champions Tour, he said he’s probably getting better with age.

“My mother always said I’m a slow learner,” Allen said.

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Jason Day shot a 71 and he’s in a six-way tie for fifth at six-under 210, a group that also includes Jeff Quinney, Ryan Armour, Fredrik Jacobson, Steve Lowery and Y.E. Yang.

Mickelson gave himself a short vacation with a six-over 78 and missed the cut here for the first time in six years. It was a circumstance due largely to the sextuple bogey he made on the par-five 14th hole at Pebble Beach.

Mickelson went from two under to four over on that one hole, or from close enough to sniff the lead to being out of the tournament in the blink of an eye.

“That was basically it,” he said.

Actually, the 14th at Pebble has been trouble before. Arnold Palmer was one shot behind Jack Nicklaus in the last round of the 1967 Crosby and hit the same tree with consecutive shots, the ball bouncing out of bounds both times. Palmer had a nine and wound up third. In the 2000 U.S. Open, Nick Faldo lost a ball after hitting it into a tree, even though he climbed the tree to look for it.

Here is Mickelson’s gruesome sequence at the 573-yard hole: driver in the fairway, second shot out of bounds, third shot penalty, fourth shot out of bounds, fifth shot penalty, sixth shot short of the green, seventh shot missed the green in the mud, eighth shot fat and missed the green, ninth shot on the green, two putts for an 11.

Mickelson said he actually hit the ball all right for three rounds but couldn’t find the right speed or the right lines on the greens.

“I’ve got to get the putter worked out,” he said. “I don’t feel like this is anything major, I just never felt good on the greens. I don’t know what the deal is.”

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thomas.bonk@latimes.com


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