LOS ANGELES (Feb. 5, 2010) – If Phil Mickelson the Elder had any second thoughts when his alarm went off at 3:30 a.m. Friday they were allayed by the end of his soggy hike across Riviera Country Club nine hours later.
He had to get up that early to drive about 40 miles to the airport and catch a 30-minute flight with his son to L.A., Van Nuys, actually, because their usual airstrip in Santa Monica was closed. When they arrived at the course at about 6 they were greeted by the start of a shower that would last throughout the day and thoroughly soak the fans who turned up for the second round of the Northern Trust Open.
Phil the Younger’s spirits, buoyed by calls Thursday night to Butch Harmon and Dave Stockton, could not be dampened.
“I felt like I wasn’t far off after yesterday’s round, even though the score didn’t reflect it,” said Mickelson, who followed his 72 with a 6 under par 65. “I had good conversations with Butch and Dave last night, and I think it settled in today. I was able to make the last adjustment and it felt great. I hit the ball much better and putted much better.”
Even after a quick overnight turnaround, Mickelson looked like he was in midseason form, even if it was the rainy season in not-so-sunny California.
Starting on 10, Mickelson birdied 11 and 12 to get to 1-under. Bogeyed 13, birdied 14. Then caddie Jim “Bones” Mackay really went to work.
Mickelson’s drive on 15 looked like it was headed for the right fairway bunker. A half dozen people, including Phil the Elder, poked around in the sand – they found plugged four balls – and the thick kikuyu thatch just above the pit. With seconds to go before the official told them the allotted five minutes to search was up, Bones found the ball buried in the grass. Mickelson hit to just short of the green, then came one roll short of making a birdie chip-in. Without Bones’ find he would have had to struggle to make bogey.
After a birdie on 1, Mickelson banged a drive off the press tent located between the first and second holes. He made an impressive over-the-trees approach to just short of the green but bogeyed to drop to 2-under. His drive on 3 was again 30 yards right of the fairway, though he saved par. Then those adjustments finally “settled in”. He didn’t miss another fairway or green on his way to the house.
A pure 4-iron to 10 feet on the tough par-3 fourth hole brought another birdie. His approach on 5 caromed 25 feet backward off the flagstick; the uphill putt stopped one roll short of another birdie. Mickelson used the slope at the back of the sixth green to draw the ball back to five feet above the hole and he made that for birdie, 4-under.
He made another at 8 after an approach from 143 yards stopped eight feet left of the cup. And on nine, 53 feet above the hole, Mickelson put most of his back to the target and putted to the right side of the green, where it took a turn, broke about 20 feet left and narrowly missed the hole. He made the 5-foot par putt and moved from a share of 83rd into a share of 9th with the afternoon wave just getting started.
It was truly mid-season stuff, an impressively quick U-turn from last week’s season-opener in San Diego where he was “hitting it all over the place” and Thursday’s scratchy round.
“I’ll probably end up 15th to 20th after two rounds,” he said afterward, “but I’m in a position where with a good round tomorrow I can get in contention for Sunday, so that’s where I wanted to get myself.”
He also got himself a later tee time, which meant Phil Mickelson the Elder could sleep in a little bit longer on Saturday morning.