Mickelson shares the lead at 1 under after two rounds of the U.S. Open. (Kinnaird/Getty Images)
By Brian Wacker, PGAOTUR.COM
ARDMORE, Pa. -- Better late than never.
Phil Mickelson was going nowhere -- except backwards -- with three bogeys and no birdies over his first 17 holes of the second round on Friday.
With his ball 20 feet from the hole on the 18th green, the horn sounded signaling the suspension of play due to darkness. Mickelson had the option to finish the hole if he wanted.
He did, making birdie to send the surrounding fans into an uproar. More importantly, it gave him a share of the lead with Billy Horschel at 1 under through the first two rounds of the U.S. Open.
"It felt great," Mickelson said of the putt. "I wasn't expecting birdie there. It's a very difficult hole."
For much of the day, Mickelson made things difficult on himself. So did Merion.
Mickelson and Horschel are the only players currently under par through the first 36 holes, and there were a dozen rounds in the 80s compared to just three in the 60s.
Those who didn't finish their round will resume play at 7:15 a.m. ET on Saturday.
Among them are Ian Poulter and amateur Cheng-Tsung Pan. They are two of five players just a stroke off the lead. Luke Donald, Steve Stricker and Justin Rose are the others.
Mickelson, meanwhile, struggled to gain any momentum most of the day.
He three-putted the first hole before stringing together nine straight pars. The streak ended, though, with back-to-back bogeys on Nos. 12 and 13.
"Even though I shot 2 over, it was the birdie opportunities that I didn't capitalize on," Mickelson said. "Had I made one on 2 or that birdie on 8 or 9 or 11, I would have changed kind of the momentum of the round.
"I played well today even though I didn't feel the score was what I thought it should be."
He did, however, play well enough to make another run at a U.S. Open title -- five times he has finished second.
"It feels good being in contention heading into the weekend," Mickelson said. "If you play good golf there's a lot of birdie holes where you can make birdies and shoot a 60s round."
And if he can do that, he'll give himself a nice present. Mickelson turns 43 on Sunday, which also happens to be Father's Day.