By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
LA QUINTA, Calif. -- His putter was more obedient on Friday than it had been during the first round of the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation.
And while the end result was a pair of pars, those shots Phil Mickelson hit on the last two holes at the Nicklaus Course on Friday had the four-time major champion in a positive frame of mind heading into the all-important third round.
"Those were the best swings that I made," Mickelson explained. "It helps give me a little bit of direction heading into tomorrow's round. I had been playing very well coming in here. I've been amped up, excited, and I've been making some very over the top, quick swings and I haven't been my best.
"But those last two holes were very encouraging. I hope that I'll be able to get it dialed in tomorrow and I'll have to be a little bit sharper on the greens tomorrow."
Mickelson's 67 left him at 5 under for the tournament and two shots shy of what would have been the cut line if the Humana Challenge wasn't contested over three different courses. Instead, the cut comes Saturday after everyone has toured the trio so Mickelson heads to the Palmer Private Course, which also hosts the final round.
"I like that golf course," the two-time Humana Challenge champ said. "You get a hot putter you can shoot, 7, 8, 9 under there, it's been done, Duval shot 59 there. ... Those last two holes, again, I finally got my rhythm and I expect to play a good round tomorrow and get some momentum."
Mickelson made seven birdies on Friday, including four in his first seven holes to set the tone for the day. Fairways hit and greens in regulation were the same as in the first round but his 26 putts was an improvement of four strokes on the green.
"I feel much better," said Mickelson, who had been ill much of last week. "I was excited to get out and play. I thought that this was a great day to go low. I left a few shots out there, but the last couple holes were very encouraging to me. They were the first time that my rhythm kind of set in. ...
"Hopefully I'll carry that into tomorrow's round, get some momentum and then try and play well next week in San Diego."