IRVING, Texas — Phil Mickelson is usually Mr. Positive, but as he walked off the green following a 1-under 69 on Saturday at the HP Byron Nelson Championship, that left him six shots back of Jason Dufner, he sounded like a man who figured he was out of the hunt.
"I think I will be too far back to make a run," Mickelson said, "but you never know, try to get a hot front nine tomorrow."
Whether it was his way of giving the leaders a false sense of security, Mickelson did his best to make sure they felt as uncomfortable as possible as they teed off, stringing together four consecutive birdies on the front nine to get within two shots of the lead as he made the turn.
For a brief moment, the round started to feel like Sunday at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, where Mickelson came from six shots back on the final day to beat, among others, Tiger Woods. But unlike his most recent comeback, the swashbuckling lefty failed to produce any back nine magic.
Despite picking up a birdie on the par-5 16th hole to stay within a couple shots of the leaders, Mickelson couldn't keep it together down the stretch, missing a short par putt on the par-3 17th, before finding the water on the par-4 18th to close with a 4-under 66.
Even with the late-round mistakes, Mickelson did what he's been known to do on Sunday in the past: He played fast and loose and gave it one heck of a run. That's all you can ask for from golf's biggest risk-taker.