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Tiger Woods slumped to the worst 54-hole total of his professional career on Saturday, but Phil Mickelson still has plenty of work to do to finally claim his longtime rival’s coveted No. 1 golf ranking.


Woods’ five-year reign appeared to be almost over after he shot a five-over-par 75 in the third round of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in Ohio, where he is the defending champion.

It was his worst score in 47 competitive rounds at Akron’s Firestone County Club, a favorite course of his where he has won a record seven times.

That left him on 11-over 221, eclipsing his 10-over totals at the 1996 and 1998 Tour Championship events, and in danger of beating his worst finish on the PGA Tour — 60th on his debut at the Greater Milwaukee Open 14 years ago.

Mickelson, who has been at No. 2 in the rankings for a record 257 weeks, needs to finish fourth on Sunday if 78th-placed Woods remains outside the top 37.

But he made a nervous start on Saturday, bogeying his first hole after driving into the trees, and ended the round tied for 10th on five-under 205 after carding an erratic 71.

His waywardness off the tee saw the 40-year-old, a four-time major winner including this year’s Masters triumph, drop his third and fourth shots of the day at 14 and 15 before closing with pars.

Mickelson was four shots behind joint leaders Ryan Palmer and Sean O’Hair, with the American duo shooting 63 and 64 respectively.

He admitted later that he needed to play better on Sunday, but told CBS that he would feel more comfortable — and less pressure — teeing off before the final pairings.

“With the players before us shooting six and seven under, it felt like we were trying to keep up. It was difficult, but now I’ll have the chance to set the pace,” Mickelson said.

Having teed off at 7.55 a.m., Woods bogeyed two of his first four holes, rallied briefly with a birdie at the par-three fifth, but then went bogey-double-bogey at seven and eight.

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