Mickelson keeps slim edge

PHIL Mickelson hits from rough on the second hole during the third round of the Desert Classic golf tournament in La Quinta, California. AP

LOS ANGELES — Five-time major champion Phil Mickelson fired six birdies in a six-under par 66 on Saturday to maintain his two-shot lead in the US PGA Tour Desert Classic.

The 48-year-old American heads into Sunday’s final round chasing a 44th US PGA Tour title and his third in this event in the California desert east of Los Angeles.

His 22-under par total of 194 put him two strokes clear of Canadian Adam Hadwin, who fired a bogey-free seven-under par 65 for 196.

Mickelson — who launched his week with a sparkling 60 on the La Quinta course, one of three in use this week — kept his foot on the accelerator on the tougher Stadium course on Saturday, where a chip-in at the sixth hole launched a string of three straight birdies.

“Every now and then you just need that putt, chip, something to fall and give you a little momentum,” Mickelson said.

He was one stroke behind Hadwin’s clubhouse lead when he rolled in a 34-footer for birdie at the 13th and regained the lead when he drained an 11-footer at the 14th.

A brilliant shot from a greenside bunker at the par-five 16th gave him another birdie look but Mickelson was unable to capitalize.

But he picked up another stroke with a 36-foot birdie putt at the par-three 17th before capping his round with a par.

“I gave myself a lot of chances,” Mickelson said. “I missed a few short putts that I’ve been making for a while, but I also made a couple of long ones.”

Hadwin fired his 65 on the Nicklaus course.

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