PINEHURST, N.C. -- Friday began with promise and once again ended in frustration for Phil Mickelson.
The five-time major champion birdied two of his first three holes on Friday afternoon to move into the top 10 on the leaderboard during the second round of the U.S Open. But four three-putt bogeys later, Mickelson had fallen back into the pack and his hopes of completing the career Grand Slam at Pinehurst No. 2 seemed like a pipe dream.
On Friday, Mickelson was particularly challenged from inside 5 feet, where he ranks 169th on TOUR. Mickelson used 31 putts on Thursday and 34 in the second round.
"The hole looks like a thimble to me right now," Mickelson said.
It's anybody's guess what grip Mickelson will use on Saturday. He started with the claw on Thursday and switched to a conventional grip for the second round after determining his eye line had gotten too far over the golf ball.
"As I moved the ball away and put my eyes over the ball instead of over the top, I felt like that's how I putted last year, so I went back to my regular grip," he explained. "... I made the putt on 2 and 3 and I hit a really good putt on 5 that didn't go and I thought I was going to have a good day. The three-putt on 6 shook me a little bit. Then 8. After that I was really fighting it."
And once the putting goes, the rest of Mickelson's game suffers.
"After I've three-putted three or four times, I kind of lose my focus on the other stuff," Mickelson said. "It really affects my ability to concentrate and my momentum and energy. It's a frustrating time, because I feel like the other parts of my game are there.
"... I feel like it's in there. It doesn't feel like the ball's coming off bad. I don't feel like the stroke is bad, but I'm just not dialed in. I'm just not making them."
Tee to green, Mickelson is right. He has hit 13 of 18 greens in regulation each of the first two days. He hit nine fairways on Thursday and eight on Friday, all respectable totals on a U.S. Open venue -- but the putter has held him back as it has all year.
"I'm not overly optimistic," Mickelson said. "Obviously I'm not in good position, but more than that, ... you can't fire at a lot of the pins. You got to make 25-, 30-footers, I'm just not doing it.
"I'm not going to give up, you just never know. I've had rounds that kind of clicked, like at Charlotte (when he shot 63), where all of a sudden the putter clicked and I just saw the line, the ball started going in and went on a run. And tomorrow I need to shoot 6- or 7-under par to have a realistic chance."