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Mickelson is not conceding

Sunday, April 10, 2011

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Phil Mickelson isn't one for concession speeches, and he wasn't ready to concede this Masters Tournament after signing his scorecard Saturday.

Phil Mickelson, hitting out of a bunker on the eight fairway, needs a very low score and some help from the leaders if he is to successfully defend hit Masters title today. Mickelson could muster only a 1-under 71 on Saturday and starts the final round nine shots behind leader Rory McIlroy. (Zach Boyden-Holmes/Staff)

The defending champion didn't do himself any favors Saturday with a shaky 1-under 71 that put him at 3-under for the tournament and nine strokes behind leader Rory McIlroy.

Few players in the field, though, have put together long strings of birdies the way Mickelson has in the past -- and he'll aim for one of those hot streaks in today's final round.

"I'm going to be quite a few back, but on Sunday, a lot can happen. I'm not going to count myself out," Mickelson said after Saturday's round. "I'm going to go tonight and do whatever work I need to give myself the best round, a hot round tomorrow.

''I've shot low scores here before. I believe I can do it again and I'm going to give myself every opportunity tomorrow to do that."

Mickelson is only two years removed from one such run, when he started Sunday's final round as an afterthought, seven strokes out of the lead. Paired with Tiger Woods, Mickelson needed only 30 strokes to complete the front nine as the already-enormous crowd following them grew to mammoth proportions.

After that six-birdie run, Mickelson moved within a stroke of the lead before his streak stalled on the finishing holes, and Angel Cabrera instead ran down the leaders and claimed his first green jacket.

Mickelson likely needed to card a few more birdies Saturday to create the possibility for similar Sunday magic today, and he knew he missed numerous opportunities throughout the third round.

"I needed to take advantage of some of the birdie holes, and I just didn't do it," he said. "I made some mistakes on the back -- I had an opportunity to shoot 3-, 4-, 5-under on the back that would have put me right there within probably five or six going into (the final round)."

Although he continued to struggle hitting the fairway off the tee, Mickelson's biggest disappointment was that his hot putting didn't carry over from last week's win at the Houston Open. He was one of last week's tournament leaders in putts per greens hit in regulation, but is tied for 44th in that category this week among the 49 remaining players in the Masters field.

"I putted so well last week at Houston, I expected to come out this week and kind of light it up," Mickelson said. "And I have struggled getting the right reads, I struggled getting the right speed, which historically, I've been able to read these greens very well.

"And I feel like I know the breaks on most of the putts, but I just have struggled getting it going this week."

That might not be a concession, but those were the words of a man who knows he needs a Sunday miracle to win his fourth green jacket.

Reach David Ching at david.ching@onlineathens.com.

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