Mickelson backtracks on course setup comments


GULLANE, Scotland – Phil Mickelson never disappoints.

A day after questioning the R&A’s setup of Muirfield, Mickelson finished the second round of the British Open five shots worse than the day before. Lefty recorded a spiffy 69 on Thursday, but followed it with an unspectacular 74 to enter the weekend at 1 over par and in an 11th-place tie, four shots off the lead.

Would Mickelson continue to hammer home the message that some of the hole locations were unfair or would he say nothing? What would Phil do next?

Well, he praised the setup, and apologized for being too harsh a mere 24 hours earlier.

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“I wasn’t being totally fair to the R&A because they’ve done a lot of things great this championship,” Mickelson said. “I think that this is set up where if you’re playing well, you can make up some ground an separate yourself.”

Mickelson did nothing to separate himself on this difficult day along the Firth of Fourth. He did, however, do plenty to keep himself in contention.

Sitting in his room in the morning watching television coverage, Mickelson knew conditions were going to be much more difficult than the day before. With that frame of mind he set out to record a round near par but that promptly went awry when he made double bogey on the second hole. The next 13 holes saw three birdies and two bogeys until Mickelson again made double bogey on the par-3 16th hole when he four-putted, which included a three-putt from 3 feet.

“Look, it’s part of the game, it happens,” Mickelson said of the costly doubles. “You do the best you can and fortunately I made a heck of a lot more (than) my share today.”

In fairness to Mickelson, he did putt extremely well – sans the 16th hole – on greens that he insists are much faster than they play annually at Augusta National. It’s a momentum builder for him heading into the weekend.

An important 36 holes lies ahead for Mickelson, to say the least. First, the U.S. Open near-miss last month at Merion was a huge disappointment; it’d be good for Mickelson to stay in contention so quickly after that championship. Secondly, Mickelson has said that past couple years here at the British Open that he now loves links golf. This is his chance to prove it once and for all. A win would also give him the third step on a way to a career grand slam.

“I’m excited, I’m playing great,” he said. “I’m putting phenomenal. And I’m looking forward to the next two days.”