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Mickelson resembles classic self at Hope

Phil Mickelson was eager to put his poor 2003 season behind him. Through three days of the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, he's well on his way.

Mickelson shot 8-under-par 64 Friday to go to 21 under and take the third-round lead. He had 68 for his first round of the season, followed by 63 the second day of the 90-hole Hope.

Coming off a 19-month winless streak, Mickelson knocked his drives mostly down the middle and was accurate with his irons and putter while playing PGA West.

Mickelson, the 2002 Hope champion who slipped from second to 16th in the world rankings, led 1988 champion Jay Haas and Ben Crane by two.

"I've been so looking forward for the year to start and this tournament to come around," said Mickelson, who dropped to 38th in earnings last year after being second for three consecutive seasons.

"To have the first three rounds of the year be as low as they were is very encouraging for the work I put in during the offseason."

He tinkered with his swing last year but went back to basics this winter.

"I can see it paying off in fairways hit through better swing mechanics. I can see it paying off with more birdies with wedges because I'm having better distance control," he said.

"My putting has been much better, and consequently, I've been scoring a lot better."

He rolled in one birdie putt of 18 feet and two others from 15.

Haas, who turned 50 last month but is in no hurry to join the senior tour, shot 64 to go to 19-under 197. In addition to winning the Hope 16 years ago, he was runnerup to Mike Weir last year.

Crane shot 65 to move into contention.

Robert Gamez had a tour record-tying 27 on the front nine and shot 12-under 60 _ one off the 18-hole record _ to go to 16 under. Gamez played the 6,478-yard Indian Wells Country Club course, the shortest on tour and rated the easiest the past three years.

Gamez began his round at No. 10 and had 33 at the turn. He had a string of four birdies and chipped in for eagle from just off the green at No. 5 to go to 9 under for the day.

He parred the next hole but sank a 20-footer on No. 7 to begin a string of three more birdies.

"Well, I guess I finally played well," Gamez said.

The tour's nine-hole record of 27 is shared by Mike Souchak, Andy North and Billy Mayfair. The record for a round is 59, shared by Al Geiberger, Chip Beck and David Duval. Duval shot his at PGA West in the final round to win the 1999 Hope.

PGA CHAMPIONS: Stewart Ginn and James Mason topped the leaderboard at 6 under early in rain-delayed first round of the season-opening MasterCard Championship in Kaupulehu-Kona, Hawaii. Ginn was one of five players who completed the round before play was suspended for 1{ hours because of rain and lightning. He shot 66 in windy conditions at Hualalai Golf Club. Mason had one hole left.

EUROPEAN PGA: Raphael Jacquelin shot 7-under 65 and held a one-stroke lead after two rounds of the Dunhill Championship in Johannesburg, South Africa. Jacquelin made consecutive birdies at Nos. 3-5 in his bogey-free round on the par-72, 7,118-yard Houghton Golf Club and moved to 13-under 131. Peter Lawrie had a second-round 8-under 64 and was tied for second with Marcel Siem (67) at 12 under.

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