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PGA notebook: Blixt enjoys some good luck


PITTSFORD — Sweden’s Jonas Blixt is in the mix for the PGA Championship after a third-round 3-under-par 67 that put him just three shots out of the lead.

But what happened on his final hole will probably be remembered long after he leaves the Rochester area.

The 29-year-old, who won the 2013 Greenbrier Classic for his second tour victory, pulled his tee shot well left on the treacherous 496-yard 18th hole. It was heading, in all likelihood, for a bad lie behind one of the many oak trees in the deep rough guarding that side of the course.

But when he arrived at his ball, where did he find it but in the back pocket of an unsuspecting spectator, Mohammed Khokhar.

The first thing that came out of Blixt’s mouth was, “Did it plug?’’ He got the line from a friend of his father’s who had the same thing happen to him.

Blixt was awarded a free drop, and drew a good lie with clearance to the green, albeit more than 200 yards out.

“I was very fortunate that he (the spectator) was standing where he was so I didn’t have to deal with too many trees and stuff like that,’’ Blixt said.

He rocketed a 5-iron toward the green up the steep slope. “I got a lucky bounce up the hill and it trickled to three feet (where he made it for birdie). It was probably one of the easiest putts on that green.’’

As for the spectator. “I told him thank you very much,’’ he said. “Hats off to someone for doing that for me.’’

Blixt finished his round bogey-free and four birdies, including three on the front side.

Woods, Mickelson non-factors

With a seven-shot win last week at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and a resounding victory a month ago at the British Open, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, respectively, came to this season’s final major with high hopes.

But when today’s final round of the PGA Championship begins, they will both be out early and basically playing to get out of town.

Woods recorded his worst round of the tournament Saturday, a 3-over-par 73, and shot himself out of contention at 4-over-par. He trails leader Jim Furyk by a whopping 13 shots.

“I didn’t hit it very good, didn’t make anything,’’ Woods said. “I just haven’t got my takeaway right, it’s off. Just one of those weeks where it’s just a fraction off, and a fraction off on a setup like this, it’s going to cost me.’’

Mickelson, hoping for a second straight major win, was even worse than Woods, shooting an 8-over-par 78 and is at the tail-end of the field in 74th place.

For Lefty, it was a case of too many wayward drives and too many misread putts.

“I couldn’t find the rhythm off the tee I’ve had the last month,’’ Mickelson said. “And if you miss tee shots on this course, you’ve got no chance. Add in the fact that through three rounds I still haven’t quite figured out the subtle breaks on the greens, and that’s a recipe for disaster.’’

Woods and Mickelson weren’t alone in their stumbles, however.

Matt Kuchar began the day two shots out of the lead at 7-under par, but could manage only a 76 and is in a tie for 12th spot.

And U.S. Open champion Justin Rose, who looked like a serious contender at 6-under-par through two rounds, sunk all the way to 1-over-par after a 77.

Tough closing stretch

The hardest holes all week have been three of the long par-4s at Oak Hill.

The 17th, at 485 yards, is playing almost a half stroke over par. And the 18th, at 496 yards, is just a tenth a stroke behind. Also playing difficult is the 461-yard 7th hole. The easiest are the only two par 5s, 4 and 13, and the driveable par 4, 331-yard 14th.

The front nine was also playing easier, 35.97 strokes compared to 36.22 for the back nine.

Although it seemed like the overall scoring was much better Friday than Saturday, Thursday’s stroke average of 72.13 was .13 better than Friday’s average of 72.26. On Saturday, with the pins quite a bit more difficult, the winds up and greens a bit quicker, the average increased to 72.9.

And while there were 35 rounds under par on Thursday, only 11 players broke 70 Saturday. Most of the contenders said to expect and even tougher track in the final round.

“When the wind comes from the northwest like that, it’s a totally different course,’’ Furyk said. “The fairways are starting to run out a little, which makes the course tighter. And while the greens are still holding, you’re seeing putts run past the whole a lot further.’’

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