Phil Mickelson’s Poor PGA Play Eased by British Open Victory

With his first British Open title secured last month, Phil Mickelson was able to laugh at himself a little after two rounds of the PGA Championship.

His playing partners, Masters Tournament winner Adam Scott and U.S. Open champion Justin Rose, combined to play the opening 36 holes in 13 under par. The 43-year-old left-hander joked that his pair of 1-over-par 71s “looked even worse.”

“Today was a great day for players who are playing well to separate themselves from the players who aren’t playing well, like myself,” he said yesterday after the second round.

Mickelson said his success in majors, with five championships following his triumph at Muirfield, also made his position at Oak Hill Country Club near Rochester, New York, easier to accept.

“Oh for sure, yes,” Mickelson told reporters.

Moments after the opening round, Mickelson bounded up a flight of stairs, eluding media and fans to make his way to the practice range. There, he spent about 30 minutes working on his swing with coach Butch Harmon.

The rare post-round teaching session was necessary, Mickelson said, after a first round that ended with a double-bogey on the 18th hole. Yesterday, he parred the hole by sinking a putt from about 10 feet while wearing a pair of black rain gloves. He finished the day with two bogeys and one birdie.

Soggy Grounds

A steady rain in the morning left Mickelson and other players battling soggy conditions through most of the day. While he didn’t blame the conditions for his score, Mickelson said his putting and approach shots let him down.

“It’s just a little bit off,” he said. “I was over-reading most every putt, and I really struggled fading the ball. I had trouble getting the ball working to the left pins. As a result, I left myself a lot of long putts.”

The wet conditions softened the 89-year-old Donald Ross-designed course, allowing many players to post low scores.

“The holes that were playing easy, were playing even easier because the greens were soft,” Mickelson said. “And the holes that were playing hard, played even harder.”

PGA Letdown

Mickelson hasn’t had much success in the last of golf’s four annual major tournaments since winning in 2005 at New Jersey’s Baltusrol Golf Club. He has two top-10 results in the past seven PGAs, coming in 36th a year ago at Kiawah Island, South Carolina.

In the past two majors, Mickelson was able to get off to a fast start. He was 3 under par after the first round of the U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club, where he finished second behind Rose. At last month’s British Open, he won his first Claret Jug after an opening 2-under score at Muirfield Golf Club in Scotland.

“You need to get off to a good start,” he said yesterday. “So you’re not playing catch-up all the time.”

Mickelson’s goal yesterday was to shoot a score in the low-to mid-60s. That goal, he said, has now been pushed back a day if he has any hope of a strong finish over the weekend.

“I need to go low tomorrow,” he said. “I’ve got to shoot 6 or 7 under par to have a chance on Sunday. That’s kind of the whole goal.”

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