PITTSFORD, N.Y. (AP) — After plunking a tee shot in the water, and missing 10 fairways and six greens in regulation, Phil Mickelson closed a haphazard second round at the PGA Championship on Friday clinging to the one positive he could find.
Poorly as Lefty played in carding a 2-over 72 that put him at 5-over 145 at Oak Hill, Mickelson anticipated he did enough to make the cut.
“I’m just a fraction off. This is as bad as I’ve played in a long time,” Mickelson said. “And yet, I’m still here on the weekend and I have a chance to turn it around.”
The two-time PGA Championship winner, who teed off in the morning, ultimately made the cut on the number, one of 76 players advancing to the weekend.
And it wouldn’t be extraordinary for Mickelson, who has won 45 PGA Tour events and six majors, to mount a charge. He did so as recently as the Masters last month, when he shot a fourth-round low of 7-under 65 to finish in a tie for second with Brooks Koepka.
Yet Mickelson’s surge at Augusta seems more the outlier than the recent norm for the 52-year-old.
Since winning the 2021 PGA Championship at Kiawah Island, Mickelson has missed the cut in five of the last seven non-LIV Golf tournaments he’s entered, including the U.S. Open and British Open last year.
He’s fared little better in LIV events, where there are no cuts. Mickelson’s best finish in six LIV tournaments this year was 15th at Singapore, which followed a 16th-place finish at Adelaide, Australia, on consecutive weekends last month. Otherwise, Mickelson has finished 32nd or lower three times in LIV's 48-man fields, including 45th at Tulsa last weekend.
Oak Hill might be a test, but it’s a familiar one at least for Mickelson.
He went 3-0 as a member of the Ryder Cup team that lost to the Europeans at Oak Hill in 1995. Mickelson also played Oak Hill the past two times it hosted the PGA Championship, finishing 23rd in 2003 and in a tie for 72nd in 2013.
“It’s just a good, hard, fair test,” Mickelson said.
If that’s the case, it’s one he barely passed on Friday with a round that featured two birdies, two bogeys and a double bogey on the par-4 No. 6.
Mickelson’s score could have been worse if not for a savvy call by a rules official.
He pulled his tee shot into Allens Creek down the right side. Mickelson took line-of-sight relief by going back on a line from where the ball went in the water, and then went two club lengths from that spot. He dropped the ball in the fairway.
The official on the hole ran out to the fairway to tell him it was incorrect — the rule changed for this year. Another rules official arrived and confirmed this with Mickelson. Lefty dropped again, this time near the collar of the first cut and the thick rough.
“I didn’t know that they changed the rule this year, whereby you normally could take the point in line and then you have that two club-length semicircle,” Mickelson said. “And I guess in January they changed that to where you just only get line-of-sight. So the guy came over and saved me a penalty because I had dropped it in the ruling under last year and didn’t realize it had been changed.
“And he came and saved me a stroke, so I was very appreciative.”
It only helped so much. Mickelson’s third shot bounded off the green to the left. He chipped from thick rough, but it rolled down a slope to 30 feet from the pin, from where he two-putted.
The double bogey stalled whatever momentum Mickelson might have have picked up on the par-3 fifth, where he happily punched the air after making a 35-foot putt for birdie.
“The first two days I’ve played terrible. I’ve driven it poorly. I’ve not felt good with the putter. I haven’t chipped great. My irons have been average,” Michelson said, before looking at the bright side. “It makes me optimistic that I still made the cut playing as poorly as I did, and I think if I can get it turned around, I think I can make a run.”
Whatever loud cheers and shouts of support from the three- and four-deep galleries Mickelson enjoyed during his practice round on Wednesday were reduced to polite clapping and the occasional well-wisher as he settled for par on his final hole, No. 9, after missing a birdie putt from 20 feet.
“Break. Break,” Mickelson said as his putt missed by 2 feet.
“All right, Phil,” someone yelled in support.
“Good job, Phil,” another person said, before adding: “See you on Sunday.”
AP Golf Writer Doug Ferguson contributed to this report.