Unheralded Lee repels Mickelson charge in Abu Dhabi

Sat Jan 18, 2014 11:52am EST
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(Reuters) - Little-known Briton Craig Lee withstood a barnstorming display from world number five Phil Mickelson to grab a two-stroke lead after the third round of the $2.7 million Abu Dhabi Championship on Saturday.

Lee, 36, who had shared the overnight lead with Spaniard Rafael Cabrera-Bello, lifted his hopes of scooping the first European Tour victory of his career by firing a three-under-par 69 for a 12-under total of 204.

Mickelson surged into contention, a dazzling 63 taking him into a tie for second place on 206 along with India's Gaganjeet Bhullar (66).

A further stroke adrift were world number seven Rory McIlroy (70), who was scuppered by a two-shot penalty, and Spain's Pablo Larrazabal (68).

Early starter Mickelson charged through the field with a dynamic round containing nine birdies, one eagle and two dropped shots.

The five-times major winner conjured up a four at the par-five 18th after finding a bunker off the tee and sandy waste with his second shot.

With a palm tree in front of him, the 43-year-old Californian produced a low, fading escape with his third effort that scuttled up on to the green and he fist-pumped the air in delight when he rolled in his putt from 30 feet for his closing birdie.

"It probably wasn't very sensible of me to try to go for the green but hey, that's what I do," Mickelson told reporters.

LOW WEDGE   Continued...

Craig Lee of Scotland plays with the ball on the third hole during the Abu Dhabi Golf championship January 18, 2014. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah