Overnight pacesetter Bill Haas bogeyed the par-five last to drop back into a tie for the lead with fellow American Phil Mickelson in Saturday’s third round of the PGA Tour event in San Diego.
Haas, who lost out in a three-way playoff for last week’s Bob Hope Classic, overhit the green with his third shot at the 18th as the wind gusted before missing a four-foot par putt to card a one-under 71.
That put him level at 12-under 204 with three-times winner and fan favourite Mickelson, who fired a five-birdie 68.
“I got to two under (for the round) and I’m disappointed with the six at the last,” Haas, whose father Jay won here in 1978, told reporters. “But I’m in a decent position for tomorrow.”
Mickelson, who lives in nearby Rancho Santa Fe and has not triumphed at Torrey Pines since 2001, felt his risk-free strategy had helped him into a share of the lead.
“This course doesn’t reward you for taking on any challenge,” said the American left-hander, who was dubbed ‘Phil the Thrill’ in his younger days for his daring shot-making.
“And my more conservative approach into the greens, albeit boring, has led me to be on top of the leaderboard.”
US Ryder Cup players Hunter Mahan and Bubba Watson were a further stroke back in a share of third after they both eagled the 18th for matching 69s.
It was a frustrating day, however, for six-times champion Tiger Woods who again struggled off the tee on the way to a 74 and a tie for 24th, a distant eight strokes off the pace.
“I did not play well at all today,” Woods said after four bogeys and just two birdies gave him only his second over-par score at the event in 46 rounds.
“It was a struggle all day. I finally found something at 16 (with his swing), but 15 holes already had gone by so that was pretty frustrating,” added the former world number one, who has not won a tournament since the 2009 Australian Masters.
Woods was totally upstaged by his playing partner, PGA Tour rookie Jhonattan Vegas of Venezuela who was a shock winner of last week’s Bob Hope Classic.
The long-hitting Vegas birdied three of the last six holes for a 69 to lie sixth at nine under, a stroke behind American Anthony Kim who birdied the last for a 71.
“I’m playing pretty good golf right now,” said Vegas, competing in only his sixth PGA Tour event. “Today was an incredible day playing alongside Tiger Woods. I really enjoyed it a lot.”
Haas, two ahead of the chasing pack overnight, made a stumbling start on another glorious day of sunshine on the southern California coastline.
He ran up a three-putt bogey at the par-three third to drop back to 10 under and then parred the next three holes to share the lead with compatriots Brandt Snedeker, Watson and Kim, plus Swede Fredrik Jacobson.
Haas picked up his first shot of the day at the par-five ninth, where he got up and down from a greenside bunker, to reach the turn at 11 under, level with Mickelson.
The two Americans then duelled for the lead over the back nine.
Haas sank a 10-footer to birdie the 10th and edge one stroke clear before slipping back with a bogey at the 11th.
Although Mickelson struck a superb tee shot to six feet at the par-three 16th and coolly rammed in the birdie putt to regain a share of the lead, Haas birdied 13 and 15 to stay in control until his final slip at the last.
“I hung in there,” said Haas, who is seeking a third PGA Tour victory. “I saw my name up there most of the day and was able to hang in there. I hit a lot of quality shots on the back nine. Tomorrow will be fun.”