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Mickelson Seeks U.S. Open Birthday Gift With Final-Day Lead

Phil Mickelson is the only golfer under par during today’s final round of the U.S. Open and is confident he’ll snap a run of five runner-up finishes at the second major golf championship of the year.

“I feel better equipped than I have ever felt heading into the final round of a U.S. Open,” Mickelson said yesterday after an even-par round at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pennsylvania. “My ball striking is better than it’s ever been. My putting is better than it has been in years and I feel very comfortable on this golf course. I love it.”

Today, on Mickelson’s 43rd birthday, he’ll begin his final round at 1-under par, a stroke ahead of fellow Americans Hunter Mahan and Steve Stricker and South African Charl Schwartzel. Mickelson and Mahan will tee off as the final group at 3:20 p.m. local time. There’s a 60 percent chance of thunderstorms this afternoon, according to the National Weather Service.

Mickelson, who finished with a bogey yesterday for an even-par 70, has held or shared the lead after each round as he pursues a fifth major title.

Mahan and Schwartzel, the 2011 Masters Tournament champion, each bogeyed their final two holes to finish with 1-under rounds. Stricker had an even-par round with two birdies that offset a double-bogey at the ninth hole.

The 46-year-old Stricker has never won a major title and entered only six tournaments this year, opting to spend more time with his family.

‘Good Place’

“I’m in a good place mentally, I feel like I’m doing the right thing by not playing,” Stricker said after his round. “I’m enjoying my time at home, so it all makes sense in my mind and I guess that’s the most important thing.”

Englishman Luke Donald, playing with Mickelson, fell out of the lead yesterday when he bogeyed the 17th hole and Mickelson made birdie at the long par-3.

Donald then double-bogeyed the 18th to drop to 1 over, tied for fifth place with countryman Justin Rose and American Billy Horschel, who shared the lead with Mickelson at 1 under at the beginning of the round.

Woods Falters

Tiger Woods, the top-ranked player in the Official World Golf Ranking, is 12 over for the week after recording a triple-bogey, two bogeys and two birdies through 11 holes today. Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland, the 2011 champion, is 2 over today and 10 over for the week.

Mickelson shot a 3-under 67 in the first round to lead the tournament after flying back to the East Coast hours earlier after attending a middle-school graduation ceremony for his elder daughter in California.

Mickelson has won three of the four previous times he entered the final round of a major as the leader. He won the 2004 and 2006 Masters and the 2005 PGA Championship, while failing to win the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot Golf Club, finishing tied for second after a final-round 74.

Today he’ll have the chance to celebrate his birthday -- on Fathers’ Day -- by winning an elusive U.S. Open title.

“It’s got the makings to be something special, but I still have to go out and perform and play some of my best golf,” Mickelson said.

To contact the reporters on this story: Mason Levinson in New York at mlevinson@bloomberg.net; Michael Buteau in Ardmore, Pennsylvania at mbuteau@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at msillup@bloomberg.net

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