With hometown favorite Jordan Spieth out of the mix at the World Golf Championships—Dell Technologies Match Play, fans knew exactly who to throw their support toward on Saturday.
Phil Mickelson is always a crowd-favorite at PGA Tour events. “Lefty” has been dazzling fans for years with miraculous shots, soul-crushing heartbreaks and go-for-broke course management.
Throughout his entire match Saturday afternoon against Bill Haas, Mickelson had practically been adopted as Austin’s favorite son.
Every few moments, a “come on, Phil” or “go get ‘em, Phil” could be heard.
One fan even went as far as to yell out, “Put him on his (expletive), Phil,” as Mickelson and Haas walked down the 15th fairway.
Fans nearby weren’t too struck by the comment — they embraced it.
“Oh, it’s been like this all day,” one fan said.
Prior to his match with Haas, Mickelson continued his hot play from the group play stage and made quick work of Australia’s Marc Leishman in the Round of 16 Saturday morning, winning 4 and 3. That set up a quarterfinal match in the afternoon against Haas, a six-time PGA Tour winner.
Mickelson still had yet to trail in a match all week and hadn’t even played the 16th hole.
“Well, I’m certainly a little bit worried, because I know there’s going to be a key match that’s going to go down to the last few holes,” Mickelson said following his match with Leishman. “And I’m not as comfortable on those holes as I’d like to be.”
Mickelson’s prophecy came true.
Haas birdied the opening hole to quickly go 1 up on Mickelson. Haas made five of his six birdies on the front nine, including one at the par-4 ninth that gave him a 3 up advantage.
“I had a number of chances to keep pace and match (Haas) on the front nine,” Mickelson said. “I struggled making the putts that I have been making all week. That seemed to me to be the difference.”
But then Mickelson started to work his magic, and the crowd responded.
He won two of the next three holes to go 1 down. But Haas was resilient and would respond to not only Mickelson but the crowd.
At the par-4 15th, Haas threw a dart from 137 yards to three feet, leading to a kick-in birdie and a 2 up advantage.
“(It was a) perfect yardage in the middle of the fairway,” Haas said, “and I told myself to hit a good one and it came off just like I liked.”
Mickelson had a great look at eagle at the par-5 16th from just 10 feet away, but his putt just slid by the right side of the hole. Mickelson needed to win the last two holes just to force a playoff.
With just a wedge in hand, Mickelson put his tee shot at the par-3 17th to a disappointing 33 feet, leaving a tricky downhill birdie putt. There would be no Lefty magic this time, as Mickelson’s putt stopped three feet short of the hole. Haas and Mickelson each made par to halve the hole, giving Haas a 2 and 1 victory to advance to Sunday morning’s semifinals.
“It was hard to smile a lot out there and just enjoy it because Phil, at any moment, I feel he can hole it from the fairway — that’s just him,” Haas said. “And there’s a lot of Phil cheers out there. I was just kind of hiding in the middle of the fairway and hoping to do well.”