Shell Houston Open 2012 Leaderboard: Phil Mickelson Must Finish Back 9 Strong

Jeff ChaseSenior Analyst IIMarch 31, 2012

HUMBLE, TX - MARCH 31:  Phil Mickelson watches his tee shot on the second hole during the third round of the Shell Houston Open at Redstone Golf Club on March 31, 2012 in Humble, Texas.  (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

With the Masters just a week away, Phil Mickelson is having a strong performance at the Shell Houston Open.

But Lefty must finish the back-nine strong on day three, otherwise he may fall off the leaderboard before the final day.

Mickelson is currently sitting amongst the Top-10 with an overall score of -10. He is one under on the day through eight.

He finished day one strong with a round of 65, which made him the leader at the end of the day.

Day two wasn't as kind to Lefty. He finished that day with a round of 70, which included two bogeys on holes nine and 16. He only had four birdies on day two, versus the eight he had the previous day.

In this third round, he has two birdies and a bogey already, but will have to finish strong on the day to jump back into the thick of things.

Lefty has done worse thus far each day, but he can turn things around on the back-nine to make sure things don't get any worse.

The back-nine hasn't been too terrible for Mickelson, as he currently has birdied five times versus his two bogeys. 

Mickelson is still playing well, but he can't allow the lead to slip, especially in the back-nine. He will know what lies ahead of him, and it will give him a real chance to fight his way back to the top.

If he can make it through the back-nine strong, especially without giving up any strokes, he should have a strong shot heading into the final round. He will be in even better shape with a few shots under par on the remaining holes.

As long as he avoids an implosion to finish the day, Mickelson has as good of a chance as anyone else in the field to make a run at the tournament's title for some nice momentum heading to Augusta.