Mickelson finishes strong to hold on to 36-hole lead
January 18, 2019
By Sean Martin , PGATOUR.COM
Phil Mickelson closes Round 2 with birdie at Desert Classic
LA QUINTA, Calif. – One day after almost breaking 60, Phil Mickelson needed a strong finish just to shoot under par.
PGA West’s Nicklaus Tournament course was the second-easiest on TOUR last season, but Mickelson was even par for his first 13 holes there in the second round of the Desert Classic.
After going 10 holes without a birdie -- an eternity in a tournament known for low scores -- Mickelson made four on his final five holes to shoot 68 and stay atop the leaderboard.
Mickelson’s 16-under 128 (60-68) is the second-lowest 36-hole score of his career. It’s the fifth time in 598 PGA TOUR starts that he has broken 130 over the first two rounds of a tournament. He won three of the four previous occasions.
Mickelson, who hit 14 greens for the second consecutive day, was pleased with his ball-striking, but said that he did not putt as well as he Thursday. His 29 putts on Friday were eight more than he needed in the first round.
“My irons are starting to come around. They were a little bit better today even than yesterday,” said Mickelson, who’s seeking his third Desert Classic victory. “I putted really well yesterday.”
He looked like he may go low again after making birdie on two of his first three holes Friday. He parred the next five holes, though, before hitting his approach shot into the water on the par-4 18th, his ninth hole of the day. He made double-bogey to make the turn in even par.
“It really wasn't as hard a shot as I made it look,” Mickelson said. “I had a decent lie after dropping off the cart path, but I had the ball a little bit below my feet and a slight uphill lie. The tendency on those shots is to pull it and I just didn't adjust for that very well and I pulled it right in the water.”
That is the only hole he has played over-par this week.
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Adam Hadwin continues to have success in the California desert and sits T3 at 13 under.
Curtis Luck finished at 14-under 130 (64-66), two shots behind fellow U.S. Amateur champion Phil Mickelson.
He started his back nine with four consecutive pars before making three consecutive birdies on Nos. 5-7. He also birdied his last hole for the second consecutive day.
“I missed putts on 2, 3 and 4 that could have easily been birdies and even three-putted that par-5 from 75 feet,” he said, “But when I made one, I started to see the ball go in the hole and I made a few more. … I just needed one little spark and finally got it.”
Mickelson will play his last two rounds on PGA West’s Stadium Course, the toughest of the three courses in use this week. The Pete Dye design, a West Coast sequel to TPC Sawgrass, punishes wayward shots with deep bunkers and water-lined fairways. But even that course isn’t as intimidating as it once was. The course was once considered too hard even for PGA TOUR players, but the field is averaging under par there this week.
“I feel like it’s a course you can take advantage of,” Mickelson said. “The penalty for a miss is greater, so you just have to play a little bit better to shoot the same score. You just can’t get away with the mistakes as easily as you can on the other two (courses).”