Danny Lee's steady performance at the 2016 Waste Management Phoenix Open resulted in him taking the lead after the third round with a 54-hole score of 13-under par thanks to a 67 on Saturday.
There was also movement near the top of the leaderboard with Bryce Molder, Boo Weekley and Phil Mickelson making huge jumps. Molder had the day's low score (64), while Weekley and Mickelson were right behind him with matching 65s.
Rickie Fowler and Hideki Matsuyama remain in the mix, entering the final 18 holes on Sunday tied for second place and three shots behind Lee.
Here's what the full leaderboard at TPC Scottsdale looks like:
Even though he still faces a steep climb on Sunday, Mickelson's third-round 65 is the latest evidence suggesting he's in an excellent groove this year. It also makes his missed cut at the Farmers Insurance Open all the more peculiar.
In three events covering nine rounds this year, Mickelson has shot under par seven times and hit par once. The only outlier was the 76 fired in the second round last week. Lefty went into the clubhouse on Saturday with an exclamation point, as illustrated by his stats, per the PGA Tour:
PGA TOUR @PGATOUR
Six birdies. No bogeys. Phil Mickelson caps off Round 3 with a bang. https://t.co/SBcjJISFGO2016-2-6 21:08:14
Yet that final birdie was just the tip of the iceberg for Mickelson, whose run of excellence started on his ninth hole (No. 18) by breaking par three times in a four-hole stretch. He also went the entire round without a bogey—the first time he's done that since the CareerBuilder Challenge's final round.
Speaking after the round, per ESPN.com's Jason Sobel, Mickelson had an interesting take on the course in Scottsdale, Arizona:
Jason Sobel @JasonSobelESPN
Breaking down the golf course, Phil Mickelson says it's now less offensive and more defensive. Or maybe he was talking about the Super Bowl.2016-2-6 21:45:07
It's an interesting theory for Mickelson to posit, since he's a player who is known for cutting things loose. The fact he was able to post a low number on a "more defensive" course bodes well for his chances heading into the final round.
Fowler may have been hindered by the defensive nature of the course on Saturday, shooting just one under par. The California native was not afraid to go for broke, like this shot on the 15th hole that nearly turned into a disaster; the PGA Tour provided highlights:
PGA TOUR @PGATOUR
Unbelievable break for Rickie. #QuickHits https://t.co/o8uKxbTKvL2016-2-6 22:14:20
Yet even though Fowler was trying to make a move on that hole, he would only manage par. There was nothing wrong overall with his performance on Saturday, but it wasn't up to the standards set in the first two rounds.
One player Fowler can look to as inspiration heading into Sunday is Matsuyama, who responded to shooting a 70 in the second round by firing a three-under par. He's been quietly climbing up the leaderboard, needing birdies on Nos. 14 and 15 to grab a share of second place.
Yet as the PGA Tour Media noted on Twitter, Matsuyama's success at the Waste Management Phoenix Open is, forgive the pun, par for the course:
PGA TOUR Media @PGATOURmedia
In two starts at the @WMPhoenixOpen, Hideki Matsuyama has never finished outside the top-5 (T4/2014, T2/2015) or shot an over par round.2016-2-6 22:37:55
Based on Matsuyama's trajectory this weekend, he will need a final round closer to the 65 he opened with than the 68 on Saturday to earn his first PGA Tour victory since 2014.
Yet all of these marquee players are still looking up at Lee, whose consistency has been unmatched so far this weekend. The 25-year-old has two rounds of 67 sandwiched in between a 66, giving him all the momentum heading into Sunday.
The biggest reason for Lee's success this weekend is his work with the putter, per the PGA Tour Media:
PGA TOUR Media @PGATOURmedia
Danny Lee (@dannygolf72) has overtaken Rickie Fowler for the tournament lead in Strokes Gained: Putting for the week (5.825 to 5.247)2016-2-6 20:55:11
PGA Tour wins are decided on the greens, where pressure is turned up to 11, so Lee's ability to conquer that part of the course so far bodes well for him with just 18 holes remaining.
Lee is in uncharted territory this season, having finished outside the top 10 in all six of his tournaments. And according to Golf Channel's Justin Ray, he has never made the cut at this event, so playing Sunday in the final group will test his mettle.
With heavy hitters such as Mickelson, Fowler and Matsuyama fighting to catch Lee, there's a lot of golf left to play in Scottsdale with no definitive favorite.