KIAWAH ISLAND, SC – As Phil Mickelson climbed the hill to step on the final green of his second round of the PGA Championship, the audience’s shout rose above the growing applause: “You’re not old, Phil.”
Mickelson, who will turn 51 next month, smiled and squeezed his thumb, his favorite nonverbal recognition during his early 1990s career. A few minutes later, when Mickelson sank a bird path that put him near the top board with the best results a little after noon on Friday, the boy parted from the green, extending his thumbs in all directions.
Eight years after his last big championship win, Mickelson scored 69 for finish Friday at five to par, which led him to his first draw with Louis Oosthuizen in the middle of the event. Two windy days remained on the exhausting Ocean Course, but Padraig Harrington, who played in Mickelson’s group in the first two rounds, saw something characteristic in the deportation of his longtime rival.
“There’s a bite between the teeth,” said Harrington, 49, using a term for a horse that can’t be stopped. “I expect him to compete, he’ll definitely be there by the end of the week.”
He added: “He is not here to make the cut – even 15th place would be a disappointment. You know what? Even another would be a disappointment to Phil. “
Mickelson has won five major championships as well in total that only 13 male golfers won – and only six of them did so after 1964. A win this weekend will not only improve his position in the sports pantheon, but will also make him the oldest grand champion, taking the record with Julius Boros, who was 48 when he won the PGA Championship 53 years ago.
Harrington, who was equal for the tournament after the second round and was still looking for the title, was asked if he appreciated what Mickelson was trying to do at an age when many golfers opted for a senior tour of the game.
Harrington, who has always had a way of channeling his inner Irish poet, smiled in response, “Unfortunately, as you gain experience, you lose your virginity.”
He explained: “On the way up there is a sweet place when you gain a little experience and yet you have that innocence. As you get older, yes, we have experiences, but we also have a scar inside. “
The consequence? “We can think too much,” Harrington said.
Despite all of Mickelson’s talents, he got his own Win the 44th PGA Tour two years ago – he rarely managed to avoid the devastating trap of over-analyzing his own game.
Consider the past few weeks, when Mickelson missed a cut at the Valspar Championship, one of nine tournaments this season in which he failed to fight for the title.
“As I got older, I had a hard time focusing,” Mickelson said afterward. “And that is my challenge right now. I try all sorts of different things so I can extend my ability to stay focused or refocus. “
After the round on Friday, Mickelson revealed his new plan for sharper concentration.
“I could try to play 36 or 45 holes a day and try to focus on every shot, so when I go out and play 18, it doesn’t seem like that much to me,” he said.
Mickelson, which always interferes, mentioned other tactics.
“I might try to prolong the time I meditate, but I’m trying to use my mind like a muscle and just expand it,” he said.
Mickelson has also done something more common for a struggling golfer, and that is to put a new club in his bag. Outside the teapot, Mickelson increasingly relies on the unusual 2-tree. His brother and caddy, Tim, said the club is similar to the one Mickelson used in his last big championship win, at the 2013 British Open.
“He’s basically missing 20 yards from the driver,” Tim Mickelson said. “It’s like 12 degrees, 13 degrees, something like that. It basically goes a long way, but if you have that smaller head, you just have a touch of more confidence that it will go more straight. “
Mickelson started the round on Friday at the last nine, where he battled winds of 20 miles per hour, as did the rest of the field, and turned to two over hits. But Mickelson had five birds for 31 at the close of nine – and almost plowed a pair of 5-hole holes.
Twenty minutes after the end of his round, the excitement of the moment did not diminish.
“To know how to play well towards the weekend, to fight and to have a good chance,” Mickelson said. “I have an explosion.”
Brooks Koepka continued his consistent play on Friday with a second round of 71, which left him in third place, one shot behind Mickelson and Oosthuizen. Three other golfers were tied for the fourth and two shots from the lead: this year’s Masters champion, Hideki Matsuyama; Branden Grace; and Christiaan Bezuidenhout.
There were significant shifts in the rankings throughout Friday’s round. First Round Leader, Corey Conners, threw five of his first six holes and bumped at a cost above 75. Will Zalatoris, a touring rookie who climbed to 30th place in the world rankings, fell from 74 on Friday after shooting with less than 71 in the first round. a frustrating 75, falling to three for the tournament. Justin Rose, another favorite before the event, tied with Rahma 75 and also had three goals.
Jordan Spieth also scored 75 and was on four goals in the middle of the tournament. Dustin Johnson, the top-ranked player, continued the uneven game he has been constantly exhibiting since the end of February with 74 following the 76th round in the first round.
Rally McIlory, shooting from the opening round of 75, hit 72 and was at three above the equalizer. The 2020 event champion, Collin Morikawa, fell in the tournament from 75 on Friday. The trio of players held positions just below the leader: Gary Woodland, the 2019 U.S. Open champion, Kevin Streelman and Sungjae Im, 7 matches each, leaving them two below for the championship.