Phil Mickelson shot a second consecutive 71 on Friday at Oak Hill Country Club. (Greenwood/Getty Images)
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- A second-straight round of 71 was hardly what Phil Mickelson was hoping for during Friday's second round of the PGA Championship.
So now, if the big lefthander has any hopes of winning his second straight major, Mickelson will need a really low round on Saturday to get within shouting distance of the leaders entering the final round.
Mickelson starts the third round at 2 over, trailing by nine strokes. He's targeting something like 63 or 64 on Saturday and he doesn't think it's out of the realm of possibility.
"I think that somebody on the weekend, somebody tomorrow is going to go out and shoot a low round," Mickelson said. "It's out there. I think it's difficult when you are up near the lead and you are being forced to make birdies and pressed. I think that there is room and opportunity for guys to come from behind and get right in the mix."
Mickelson headed straight for the range after his first round and worked until dusk with instructor Butch Harmon. He saw some positives on Friday although the results -- nine fairways hit vs. eight Thursday and 10 greens in regulation in each round -- were strikingly the same.
"It felt much better and it was much better," Mickelson said. "I hit a lot better tee shots. All my draw shots were good. Where I struggled today was trying to fade the ball. All the left pins that I was trying to cut the ball into the pin, I just didn't, I didn't get close. I was 40, 50 feet. So that was the biggest thing."
Mickelson also struggled with the putter. He used 29 on Friday, six more than in the first round, and had trouble figuring out the break.
"I'm not sure if I was over reading them because they might have been slower with the water or if just visually they look like they break more to me," he said. "The putts that I've hit well, I've missed high."
Mickelson, who who won The Open Championship last month, was in some heady company during the first two rounds, too. Masters champion Adam Scott is tied for the lead at 7 under while the U.S. Open winner, Justin Rose, is another behind.
"I struggled these first two days, for sure," Mickelson said. "Playing with Adam and Justin who played really terrific golf made it look even worse."
And Mickelson felt that Friday's wet conditions played right into their hands.
"I thought today was a great day for players who are playing well to separate themselves," Mickelson said. "What I found was the holes that were birdie holes actually played easier because of the rain by softening the greens.
"The holes that were really hard like 17 and 18 played even harder. I thought that guys that were playing well, like Adam and Justin, gives them a chance to play and separate themselves from the players who aren't playing well like myself.
"So it was a perfect setup to allow the guys who are playing well to come to the top."