Phil Mickelson drew the loudest roars from the biggest crowd in golf history Saturday at the Phoenix Open in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Mickelson nearly aced the par-3 16th, hitting a 9-iron to a foot to set up a birdie on the rowdy stadium hole packed with nearly 20,000 screaming fans.
‘‘What’s funny about that is 172 yards is a very tough 9-iron for me to get there, but I immediately take 5 yards off and in my head I had 167,’’ Mickelson said. ‘‘The reason is you always have a little bit of adrenaline here, and the ball goes a little bit longer on 16.
‘‘I played for a 167-yard shot and tried to hit just a comfortable or stock 9-iron, and the ball ended up flying that far and released to the hole. Having played this course and that hole over the years and knowing what your body does and how to adjust to it has helped me, and certainly it did today.’’
Estimated at 179,022, the third-round crowd broke the record of 173,210 set last year, also on a Saturday at fan-friendly TPC Scottsdale. The event has drawn 467,030 for the week and is in position to break the mark of 538,356 set in 2008.
Mickelson birdied the final four holes and five of the last six for a 7-under-par 64 and a six-stroke lead over Brandt Snedeker.
The 42-year-old former Arizona State star has led after each round, opening with a 60 and shooting a 65 on Friday. He fell a stroke short of the tour record for the first 54 holes, and matched the tournament mark set by Mark Calcavecchia in 2001.
Making his 24th appearance in the event that he won in 1996 and 2005, Mickelson is trying to complete his third career wire-to-wire victory and first since the 2006 BellSouth Classic — a 13-stroke blowout the week before the second of his three Masters victories.
He also is in position to match the tournament record of three victories set by Arnold Palmer and matched by Gene Littler and Calcavecchia. Mickelson won the last of his 40 PGA Tour titles 51 weeks ago at Pebble Beach.
The lefthander played the first 12 holes in 2 under, making a 20-foot birdie putt on the par-4 first and a 25-footer on the par-4 fifth. He got up and down from greenside bunkers for birdies on the par-5 13th and 15th holes, followed with the tap-in on 16, then chipped to 2 feet on the 337-yard 17th.
A day after making a double-bogey 6 on the 18th when he hit a 3-wood drive into the water on the left, Mickelson blasted driver over the water and into the grandstand. He got a free drop, hit to 15 feet, and holed the putt to another round of loud cheers.
Snedeker had a 65 to reach 18 under.
Padraig Harrington and Ryan Moore were tied for third at 16 under. Harrington, making his first appearance in the event, shot a 63 and Moore had a 65.
Keegan Bradley, playing in the final group with Mickelson, shot a 73 to reach 10 under.
European — Stephen Gallacher of Scotland shot a 10-under 62 to take a three-shot lead over Richard Sterne (66) at the Dubai Desert Classic in the United Arab Emirates and break the three-round scoring record set by Tiger Woods 12 years ago.
The 111th-ranked Gallacher is looking for his first tour win since 2004. He holed a 25-yard bunker shot on the 18th for an eagle to finish with a 21-under 195 total. That improved on Woods’s tournament mark by a shot and just missed tying the course record of 61 set in 1994 by Ernie Els.
Sergio Garcia struggled at times with a nagging shoulder injury, shooting 71 to fall into a tie for 19th.