HOYLAKE, England – Many times major championships are won not by eagles or birdies, but by the par save that keeps the round going.
That was the case Friday for Phil Mickelson, who needed to make a 6-footer on the par-5 10th hole to salvage a par and keep a good round from getting away.
“It was a crazy par save, wasn't it,” Mickelson said after shooting a 2-under 70. “You know, I played really well today, but there were a couple of loose shots. The drive on 10, the missed putt on 7 ended up costing me another one on 8. And I ended up giving four or five shots away, but I played really well.”
Mickelson had a lot of chances in Friday’s second round to turn his 70 into something really low, but at the same time Royal Liverpool was not the pitch-and-putt course that the morning wave saw in the first round, it was even more difficult than what the same wave faced Thursday afternoon, so to shoot anything under par was crucial for Mickelson.
After going birdie-eagle on the fourth and fifth holes, Mickelson hit a shot close on No. 7 for what was maybe his best chance of the day to make a birdie from 6 feet. But he missed the putt, leaving him upset on the next tee and eventually let the miss force a poor second shot, making a bogey to compound the mistake on the eighth and costing Mickelson at least two strokes.
“I wasn't patient,” Mickelson said. “I tried to get that shot a little bit close. And what happens is I drew that 8-iron with the wind, and when it's going downwind, it just doesn't stop. So I had to work it back into the middle of the green. I should have hit it 30 feet. I thought I'm going to try to get one close. Hit it over the green, hit a poor chip and make bogey.”
With the round teetering at the turn, Mickelson hit his drive on the 10th into the bushes, lost the ball and had to hit a provisional. His fourth shot was from 213 yards and he carved a 2-iron to 6 feet and made the putt for a par and more importantly kept the momentum going he had midway through the round.
“It's just little things like that that can change the momentum of the round,” Mickelson said. “And fortunately I was able to fight hard and get it back on the back nine, because I was 1-over par and then hit one out of bounds, essentially. So to get it back to even is good. And hopefully the weather is supposed to come in tomorrow; it will be tough for all of us.”
Mickelson’s 70 was the first time since his final-round 66 at Muirfield that he has recorded an under-par round in a major.
While not giddy, Mickelson was satisfied he not only got back to level par, but seemed to find a key to his putting stroke on the back nine.
“Slight adjustment,” Mickelson said. “I just tried to extend more to the target. I felt like I was kind of quitting on it, and I seemed to get them on line and had a couple of really good rolls.”