- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 10, 2008

From combined dispatches

BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. | Phil Mickelson wasn’t the best lefty in his twosome.

Steve Flesch was 2 under through five holes and moved into a tie for fifth at 1 over Saturday when thunderstorms forced suspension of play for the day at the PGA Championship.

Mickelson was even par through the same stretch and remained at 3 over, four shots behind second-round leader J.B. Holmes.

“I don’t know if either one of us has a lot to be proud of today,” Flesch said. “I think both of us will be looking to get some momentum in the morning, hoping it will carry us through on what’s going to be a long day.”

The suspension meant the two left-handers faced 31 holes Sunday.

Mickelson is in the midst of his longest stretch with one top-10 finish at a major, going nine starts with only a tie for fifth in April at the Masters.

Mickelson was tied for 18th and 19th in the U.S. Open and British Open, respectively, this year. He missed two cuts at majors last season, finishing no better than 24th, and finished outside of the top 15 in the final two majors of 2006.

The world’s second-ranked player got off to a great start Saturday with a drive that landed in the fairway, just 72 yards from the green at 435-yard first hole.

But Mickelson didn’t take advantage, finessing an approach that went in a bunker short. He came up short again but had a good chip out of the rough on the short side of the green to set up a short bogey putt.

Mickelson drove the middle of the fairway on No. 5 and hit a beautiful shot that trickled toward the cup and left him with about a 5-foot birdie putt. But he barely caught the left side of the cup. After tapping in for par, he shook his head as he walked off.

Mickelson gave himself a chance, though, to make up ground with an 8-foot eagle putt at No. 6 only to have the horn blow. He marked his ball and took a look at the line he would have before getting in an SUV to evacuate the course.

It took 17 minutes to get back to the clubhouse as a caravan slowly made its way.

After a four-hour delay, Mickelson left the course without talking to reporters.

Doesn’t end here

U.S. Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger is playing the weekend, so he knows how difficult it is to play Oakland Hills.

“It’s the hardest course I’ve ever played,” Azinger said after his third-round 76 left him at 14-over 224.

That speaks volumes considering the source, who is playing in his 66th major and has competed in five Ryder Cups and two Presidents Cups.

The top eight players in the Ryder Cup standings after Sunday’s final round will get automatic berths for next month’s event at Valhalla. Azinger will fill out the rest of the side with four captain’s picks to be announced Sept. 2 in New York.

Players who struggled at Oakland Hills this week have not doomed their chances, Azinger insisted.

“Doesn’t mean anything,” he said. “We have three weeks to go. I want a guy who is confident, and if the guy’s confidence is shattered when he left here, join the club.”

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