(CNN) -- Phil Mickelson is well off the pace going into the final round of the Houston Open, ahead of his highly-anticipated showdown with Tiger Woods at golf's first major tournament of the season next week.
The American, who has lost his No. 2 ranking to compatriot Steve Stricker this year, will renew his rivalry with Woods at the Masters in Augusta in the number one's return following a self-imposed hiatus due to his marital problems.
Mickelson, a two-time Masters winner, has not finished better than a tie for eighth on the U.S. PGA Tour so far this season, though he has not missed a cut.
He carded a two-under-par 70 at Redstone in Texas on Saturday to be nine shots behind joint leaders Anthony Kim and Bryce Molder after 54 holes.
The left-hander suffered bogeys at 14 and 15 before bouncing back with his fifth birdie of the day at the next hole to be in a tie for 37th on one-under 215, moving up 20 places.
U.S. Ryder Cup star Kim bounced back from two bogeys at his first three holes to shoot 69 and catch halfway leader Molder, who dropped four shots in his 71.
Vaughn Taylor carded 70 to move up to a tie for third on 208 with fellow American Joe Ogilvie (71), while world No. 4 Lee Westwood recovered from a dreadful run on his opening nine holes to be on 209 along with Jeff Maggert (70) and Canada's Graham DeLaet (71).
The Englishman carded two double-bogeys and a single between the sixth and No. 9 before bouncing back with five birdies -- two at his last two holes -- to sign for a 72.
Padraig Harrington, who will seek to add to his three major titles next week, also had a mixed day as he too carded 72 to be in a group of seven players on 210.
The Irishman went, from the third hole, birdie/bogey/double-bogey/birdie/bogey, then bogey/birdie/eagle from the 11th, dropped another shot at 16, picked one up at 17, and finished with a par.
South African veteran Ernie Els, seeking his second successive victory after retaining his Arnold Palmer Invitational title, was on three-over 219 after a 75 which featured two double-bogeys
Defending Masters champion Angel Cabrera of Argentina was way back on 223 after carding a dismal 77.