By Mark Lamport-Stokes
LOUISVILLE Kentucky (Reuters) - Phil Mickelson has endured a disappointing season by his usual lofty standards but hopes to feed off memories of Firestone last week as he heads into Sunday's final round of the PGA Championship.
Six days ago in Ohio, the American closed with a sizzling eight-under-par 62 to tie for 15th in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, a display that gave him timely momentum for the year's final major.
Though he has played well only in spurts over the first three rounds here at Valhalla Golf Club, Mickelson has given himself a chance of winning a sixth major title as he trails tournament leader Rory McIlroy by three shots after 54 holes.
"Last week at Firestone that eight-under-par round is where I got off to a good start," the left-hander told reporters after reeling off four birdies in his last five holes for a four-under-par 67 and a 10-under total of 203.
"I just kept the momentum going throughout the round. I need to do that again tomorrow. That's the bottom line.
"The great thing about it is that I put myself in a position now where if I do do that and play the way I feel I can and shoot the number I believe I can, I'm in a position to win the golf tournament and that's what feels good."
Mickelson, a 42-times winner on the PGA Tour, has not recorded a top-10 this season in 17 starts and accepts he faces a daunting challenge in trying to overhaul the in-form McIlroy in the final round at Valhalla.
Northern Irishman McIlroy has won his last two tournaments, the British Open and the Bridgestone Invitational, and was the overwhelming favorite coming into this week as the newly crowned world number one.
"The disadvantage from my point of view is I have not played well, been in contention, and I haven't won this year," said Mickelson, who clinched the 2005 PGA Championship at Baltusrol. "I'm playing a guy that's won the last two weeks he's played.
"That's a huge disadvantage because I haven't been in the heat. I'm certainly going to feel some pressure tomorrow because I want to have an opportunity to make up for the entire year in one round.
"I'll certainly be feeling some pressure. Those five majors that I've won in the past really aren't much help going into tomorrow's round."
However, Mickelson will be taking momentum into the final round at Valhalla after kickstarting his rousing finish on Saturday by draining a 22-foot birdie putt at the par-three 14th.
"The birdie putt on 14 was huge for me," said the 44-year-old Californian. "I needed something to get it going. Knocking that one in gave me a little bit of momentum.
"Then I ended up following with three birdies coming in. I just haven't played all 18 holes the way I played the last five. I need to do that tomorrow right from the start.
"My game feels so close to clicking. And when I say clicking, shooting really low."
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)