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Mickelson visualizes himself into Hartford lead

He matches course record with 61 round

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CROMWELL, Conn. — Phil Mickelson went back to school to prepare for his latest final-round test.

Using visualization techniques he learned at Arizona State to perfection Saturday, Mickelson shot a 9-under-par 61 to take a one-stroke lead in the Greater Hartford Open. He matched the course record with his lowest round on the PGA Tour.

"I'm visualizing the shot I want to hit and pulling it off," said Mickelson, who dug through his old college psychology notes and textbooks in a bid to end a string of final-round collapses.

"In the past, my mind would wander, and I would start seeing shots that I didn't want to hit. I was working out of a more negative frame of mind. By simply visualizing what I want to occur, I have been able to pull off those shots."

After winning his 18th career title in San Diego in February, he faded on Sunday in the Masters, New Orleans, the Colonial and the U.S. Open. He was one of the best closers in golf the previous eight years, winning all nine times he had the 54-hole lead.

"The last hurdle has been my mental approach," Mickelson said. "I've spent a lot of time on my game, but I haven't spent the time and effort mentally preparing for events like I have in the past."

The 31-year-old left-hander eagled the par-5 13th to take the lead at 11 under, and birdied Nos. 15, 16 and 18 to match the back-nine record of 6-under 29 and finish at 14-under 196.

Mickelson, making his first appearance at the TPC at River Highlands since 1994, opened with rounds of 67 and 68 to begin play three strokes behind the record-tying, eight-man lead group.

"After playing two solid rounds, I thought today would be my day to go low, but I certainly didn't expect 9 under," he said. "I felt after eagling 13 that I could really go low."

Mickelson set up the eagle with a 3-wood approach from 260 yards to about 12 feet on the 523-yard hole. He made a 6-foot birdie putt on the 296-yard 15th after driving into a bunker, holed a 30-footer on the par-3 16th, and completed the bogey-free round with another 6-foot birdie putt on No. 18.

David Berganio Jr. was second after a 64, and Chris DiMarco was two strokes back after a 66.

"Phil's not going to worry about me, and I'm not going to worry about him. He knows Tiger Woods isn't chasing him," Berganio said. "The course is right in front of you. There's no tricks. What you see is what you get."

DiMarco, one of the eight second-round leaders, birdied four of the last six holes.

"I was glad when Phil ran out of holes," DiMarco said. "I stopped pressing once he was done."

Billy Andrade was three strokes back after a 66. The Rhode Island player birdied the final three holes.

"Obviously, Phil Mickelson was playing a course unfamiliar to the rest of us," Andrade said. "I'm very excited about tomorrow. This is a tournament I dearly want to win."

Tim Herron and local favorite Jerry Kelly were tied for fifth at 9 under. Herron shot a 67, and Kelly, the former University of Hartford player, had a 69.

SHOPRITE LPGA CLASSIC: At Absecon, N.J., Cristie Kerr and Lorie Kane turned in error-free rounds and shared the lead at 9-under-par 133 heading into the final round of the ShopRite LPGA Classic.

Playing in withering heat, Kerr shot a 5-under 66 and Kane had a 68 in the second round of the $1.2 million tournament on the 6,051-yard Marriott Seaview Resort course.

Two-time champion Betsy King was one shot back after a 69, while Marisa Baena and first-round leader Pat Hurst were at 135.

IRISH OPEN: At Cork, Ireland, Colin Montgomerie shot a 3-under-par 68 to stretch his lead to three shots over 20-year-old Adam Scott after three rounds of the Irish Open.

Scott had four birdies on the first eight holes.

Montgomerie, two ahead at the start of the round, birdied Nos. 4, 5, and 6 to lead by four. But Scott, who made seven birdies in a 66, pulled into a tie before bogeying the two par-5s on the back nine, the 10th and 18th.

Montgomerie bogeyed the 10th and the 13th.