Carmel: Phil Mickelson's third round birdie binge that shot him to the  top of the BMW Championship's leaderboard on Saturday offered another sign that his game is rounding back into form after a mid-season meltdown.

The timing could not be better.

With the lucrative Tour Championship set for Sept. 20-23 in Atlanta followed a week later by Ryder Cup duty against Europe, there is plenty on the line for Mickelson this month as he looks to end his season on the upswing.

After matching a career high with 10 birdies on the way to an eight-under 64 to share the lead with Vijay Singh going into Sunday's final round, Mickelson can certainly feel positive about the challenges ahead.

"I knew this week was going to be a good week," he told reporters. "I came out a little bit anxious the front nine on Thursday and didn't play well.

"I kind of settled in and started to make some putts, started to make some birdies but the game feels really good.

"It's finally back and I'm looking forward to being in the mix tomorrow but also the Tour Championship and the Ryder Cup, I'm just glad that it's back in time."


Mickelson began the season smartly, notching his 40th PGA Tour win at the Pebble Beach National Pro-am and then losing in a playoff the following week at the Northern Trust Open.

The four-time major winner tied for fourth at the Houston Open and third at the Masters but soon after slipped into the doldrums.

In seven events before last week's fourth place finish at the Deutsche Bank Championship, Mickelson had missed two cuts, withdrawn from another event and could not post a better result than a tie for 36th.

Mickelson said he knew exactly what the problem was, and had been in the process of fixing it, but declined to elaborate.

"I know exactly what happened but I really don't want to discuss it," said Mickelson. "All I care about is that (my game) is on its way back.

"Certainly my game went south for a while and I was trying to piece it back together.

"It's taken me a little while to piece it back together but I could tell last week that my game was back and I was ready to play at the highest level again."

Forced to examine his game and ask the tough questions, the 42-year-old lefthander said he had emerged from his slump stronger and a better player.

"Looking back on it, (it's been) a great three-or-four months because as bad as I've played, it's forced me to really analyse and look at and dissect the parts of my game to get it back to where I wanted it to be," he said. "It's taken me some time and I have a little ways to go.

"When was it its best? What was I doing then that made it its best?

"How do I practice? How do I hit the shots?

"Although it's taken me three, four months of poor play, I feel like now it's back to a level where I'm going to start  playing the way I know I'm capable of playing."


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