JOHNS CREEK, Ga. (AP) – David Toms and Phil Mickelson were trying to get in position to stage a rematch of their duel at Atlanta Athletic Club a decade ago.
Toms shot a 5-under 65 Saturday in the third round of the PGA Championship, moving him to 2-under 218 and within three shots of the lead as Keegan Bradley and Jason Dufner teed off in the final group.
Mickelson bounced back from a bogey at the second hole with four birdies. He was also at 2 under after rolling in a short birdie putt at the par-5 12th.
Bradley, playing in his first major, and Dufner, who’s never won a tour event, were the surprising co-leaders were at 5-under 135. They had a one-stroke lead at the midway point over a group that included Jim Furyk and Scott Verplank.
Toms won the PGA Championship the last time it was played at this course northeast of Atlanta in 2001. He was in the mix again after posting one of the best rounds of the week, sparked by an eagle at the 12th. He followed with birdies at 13 and 14, then made another at the tough closing hole when a 5-iron from 190 yards barely cleared the water.
“I thought I got it in there pretty tight,” Toms said. “But obviously, the way the crowd oohed and aahed up there, I was glad to get over the water.”
He won his only major title with a gutsy call at that same hole in 2001. Clinging to a one-shot lead over Mickelson, Toms chose to lay up short of the water with his second shot. He knocked a wedge 12 feet from the hole and made the par putt to hold off Lefty.
Toms started feeling good vibes as he walked up to the 15th, where there’s a plaque marking his most memorable shot from 2001 – a hole-in-one.
“People were saying stuff in the crowd about doing it again, that kind of thing, and you flash black to this time, this week, 10 years ago,” he said. “A lot of memories for sure. The golf course is different. The golf course if much more demanding, so I have to play extremely well.”
Mickelson is the last American to win a major at the 2010 Masters. Since then, international players have captured six in a row, the longest U.S. drought in the modern Grand Slam era.
Luke Donald, the world’s top-ranked player, was trying to keep that streak going and win his first major championship. The Englishman was at 4 under on the day and just two strokes behind the leaders as they teed off.
With Tiger Woods and several big-name players missing the cut, the 36-hole leaderboard included only three major winners in the top 25: Toms, Furyk and Trevor Immelman.
The guys at the top were certainly unexpected.
Dufner had not made a cut since the last week in May, but he holed a 25-foot eagle putt on the fifth hole Friday and threw in five birdies for a 65 that put him atop the leaderboard for the first time in a major.
Bradley, a tour rookie and the nephew of LPGA great Pat Bradley, did even better with a bogey-free round of 64.
Journeymen D.A. Points and John Senden joined Furyk and Verplank at one shot off the lead.
“These guys are all great players,” Bradley insisted. “It’s not like they just kind of stumbled up there. They’ve been out here a long time.”
U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy made the cut despite an ailing right wrist. He started the day eight strokes off the lead and failed to make a move, struggling to a 74.
The 22-year-old did catch a good break at the par-3 17th, where his tee shot landed on a rock wall along the bunker, bounced at least 50 feet in the air and came down on the green.
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