Phil still top after getting luck of the draw
On a day of mixed fortunes, Phil Mickelson maintained his position at the top of the leaderboard with a score of 69 in the second round of The 145th Open at Royal Troon.
Blessed with the luck of the draw – the morning starters played in wet, though relatively benign conditions, the afternoon starters battled against a succession of soul-destroying squalls – Mickelson seized a chance to keep his nose in front after his record-equalling opening round of 63.
The five-time Major Champion held a lead of three strokes over his nearest challengers at the start of play, but surrendered some ground to Sweden’s Henrik Stenson, whose superb round of 65, the lowest score of the day, moved him to nine under par and within one stroke of the 2013 Champion Golfer of the Year.
Three strokes off the lead are Denmark’s Soren Kjeldsen and America’s Keegan Bradley, both of whom had rounds of 68. Zach Johnson, the defending champion, is two strokes further back, on five under par.
To illustrate the difficulties faced in the afternoon by the likes of Rory McIlroy (-2), Jordan Spieth (+4), Jason Day (+1), Danny Willett (+4) and Bubba Watson (+4), the vast majority of players who finished the day in red figures played in the first half of the day. Those on four over par made the halfway cut.
Needless to say Mickelson was delighted with his efforts. Out in 33, home in 36, he knew by the time he went to lunch that he had posted a score that was unlikely to be surpassed. He dropped his first shot in two days at the 12th and his second at the 15th, but had plenty of fun along the way.
The highlight of his round came at the Postage Stamp, the par three 8th, where he found the green to the left of the flag and sucked the ball back towards the hole, where it finished two inches from a hole in one.
When Mickelson’s putt for a Major Championship record of 62 lipped out in the first round he said in jest that the gods had conspired against him. Now, though, he is looking to them for a little help.
“I think, again, that's probably due to the gods,” he said with a smile. “And I would expect them to be consistent.”
One of the secrets to his success, he says, is learning to play golf along the ground, an absolute necessity in links golf, particularly when the wind is up. His club of choice has been a 2-iron (a rare choice these days) and it has worked to perfection.
“It's really just a specialty club for over here because I use more of a hybrid in the States,” he explained. “At the other majors the greens are so firm and fast I'm trying to bring the ball in higher. Here I'm just trying to get it on the ground. I probably used it on more than half the tee shots today.”
Stenson, who had seven birdies and dropped just one stroke, at the 9th, was quietly satisfied with his day’s work but determined not to get ahead of himself.
“So far so good,” said the 40-year-old, who is now based in Orlando. “I’m happy with the way I played because it wasn’t easy out there but we’re only halfway through.”