He barely made the cut, but after shooting a second straight 2-over 74 on Friday in the second round of the PGA Championship, Mickelson was 4 over for the tournament. At mid-day, the second-ranked player in the world was in real trouble of heading home early. It took a 19-way tie for 62nd place to keep him in it.
Im not going to beat many people putting the way I am, said Mickelson, who decided after the first round to do something he hadnt done in a long time: go to the practice green and work on his shoddy short game.
The extra time didnt pay off, though Mickelson insisted he felt better about his putter than the day before.
He amended a double bogey on No. 5 with an eagle on the par-5 seventh hole and had an opportunity to pick up another stroke with a 15-footer on No. 8. It sailed long, and Mickelson waved his hands as if to say, Come on!
In all, he needed 77 putts for 36 holes.
Ive got to get this thing turned around, Mickelson said.
Receiving plenty of support from the galleries, one guy yelled, Keep your head up, Phil! after he failed to putt for par and made the turn toward the front nine. If it was any consolation, Mickelsons group didnt fare much better than he did.
David Toms followed his first-round 69 with a 75, a high score also attributable to some struggles on the greens.
You dont see a lot of balls that close to the hole, it seems like, Toms said, assessing the course. At least not in our group. So then if youre not making your 25- and 30-footers, or a couple of those, its hard to make birdies.
The last time Mickelson missed the cut in a major was the 2007 British Open, a tournament he skipped this summer to be with his wife and mother, both of whom were recently diagnosed with breast cancer.
Since tying for second place at the U.S. Open in June, Mickelson played only last weeks Bridgestone Invitational in Ohio before this. He tied for 58th place at Firestone Country Club.
The assumption is that Mickelsons increased family focus and decreased time on the course has affected his game, but he said that his putting problems were to blame.
I think the struggling on the greens is carrying over a little bit into, maybe, my focus on some other shots, Mickelson said. I dont feel Im hitting it bad, but Im hitting some bad shots.
Mickelson sent tee shots into the rough, the sand and the gallery over the first two rounds. On Friday, he hit only six of a possible 14 fairways.
I dont feel like Im striking it horrendously, he said. Its just Im having trouble scoring right now.
This wasnt Mickelsons worst PGA Championship performance; he shot a 78 in the third round in 2002. This is an event, though, that he won four years ago and took second at in 2001. He hasnt missed the cut in the seasons last major since 1995, when he was 25.
Perhaps its because of deepened perspective, the process at home now his priority, but Mickelson didnt sound so down at the end of his rough round. As he crossed the catwalk from the course to the scoring trailer, a few fans yelled encouragement while he flashed a smile during a chat with his caddie.
Mickelson certainly didnt show the same resigned look he had after his missed chance at the U.S. Open. Asked about his plans for the remainder of the season, he declined to speculate other than to confirm his participation at The Barclays in New Jersey later this month.
I dont want to look too far down the road for at least another year, because were day to day with everything, Mickelson said, referring to the health of his wife. Right now things are OK, and Im planning on playing Barclays and well see where I go from there.