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Mickelson Heads Into U.S. Open Weekend Tied Atop Leaderboard

Golfer Phil Mickelson
The past three years, golfer Phil Mickelson started the U.S. Open with rounds of 76, 74 and 75. Photographer: Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Phil Mickelson enters today’s third round of the U.S. Open in position to end the weekend as champion, which would give the five-time runner-up his fifth major title.

“I just like being in the mix,” Mickelson told reporters yesterday after shooting a 2-over-par 72 at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pennsylvania. “The way I have control off the tee and as good as the putter is, I’m very excited about the opportunity this weekend.”

Mickelson, finishing his second round just as play was halted because of darkness last night, sank a birdie putt of about 25 feet to regain a share of the lead with fellow American Billy Horschel.

Mickelson, who led the season’s second major championship at 3 under par after the first round, had three bogeys and 14 pars before sinking the long putt to finish the second round at 1 under.

“I struggled with a lot of short putts, and I’ve been playing really well,” said Mickelson, who missed two putts from about three feet yesterday.

Horschel, a 26-year-old who played at the University of Florida before turning professional in 2009, shot a 3-under 67 yesterday to move to 1 under for the tournament. He and Mickelson are the only players below par.

Ranked 50th in the Official World Golf Ranking after earning his first U.S. PGA Tour victory in April in New Orleans, Horschel said he didn’t know that he had hit every green in regulation until he completed his round. He said it’s not the first time he’s done so.

Horschel’s Nerves

“I was not in the zone, trust me,” Horschel told reporters. “This golf course, even though it’s soft, is still a tough golf course. I know what in the zone is for me. I don’t get nervous, I just see the shot and go. And I saw the shot and I went with it, but I was still nervous with a lot of them.”

Tiger Woods had an even-par second round to stay at 3 over for the tournament, four strokes off the lead.

Luke Donald, who at 2 under was one of five golfers who finished the first round below par, got to 4 under yesterday before making five bogeys in six holes. The 35-year-old Englishman had six bogeys and four birdies for the round, leaving him tied for third at even-par 140.

“I’m pretty satisfied, when looking at the scores,” Donald said in a televised interview. “I saw some pins where I didn’t think they were going to put pins and I had a couple three-putts, but overall I had pretty good control of my golf ball.”

American Steve Stricker and Englishman Justin Rose also are at even par after rounds of 1-under 69, while England’s Ian Poulter and Chen-Tsung Pan, a 21-year-old amateur from Taiwan, are at even par and have yet to complete their second rounds.

Incomplete Rounds

There are 68 golfers out of a starting field of 156 who still must complete second-round play today after rain caused two delays during first-round action.

After a 3-over first round that included six bogeys and three birdies, Woods had three birdies and as many bogeys during his second round. He also indicated that his left arm was hurting after shaking the arm and grimacing on several shots during the first round. Notah Begay, Woods’s former teammate at Stanford University, said on NBC’s broadcast yesterday that Woods was suffering from an elbow injury.

After his round, Woods refused to discuss the injury in detail, saying that it occurred at the Players Championship in May.

“I played well,” Woods said of his even-par round yesterday. “I just made a couple of mistakes out there, but I really played well. Maybe I could have gotten one or two more out of it, but it was a pretty good day.’

Title Streak

Woods is seeking his fourth U.S. Open title and his first major win since beating Rocco Mediate in a playoff at the 2008 tournament. A 14-time major winner, Woods had two bogeys and a birdie yesterday morning while completing his first round.

Woods, Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott -- the three top-ranked golfers in the world -- played together for the first two rounds. Scott, the Masters Tournament champion, finished at 7 over and McIlroy was 3 over.

The projected cut line is 7 over par. The top 60 golfers and ties get to play the rest of the weekend.

‘‘Anything around par is a good score out there,’’ Australian John Senden, who is 1 over after a second-round 71, told reporters. ‘‘I’d hate to be here if it hadn’t rained at all.”

Wet Weather

Second-round tee times were pushed back three hours from the original schedule yesterday following storms. The rain further softened a course that was soaked by storms that dumped about six inches (15 centimeters) of water on Merion in the week leading up to the tournament.

Merion, which is hosting the U.S. Open for the fifth time and first since 1981, is the shortest U.S. Open venue since New York’s Shinnecock Hills played at the same yardage in 2004.

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