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Mickelson surges to 36-hole lead at Quail Hollow

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Faced with another day of calm conditions and questionable greens, several players were able to tame Quail Hollow Club as low scores came from both the morning and afternoon waves. Here's how things shape up heading into the third round of the Wells Fargo Championship, where Phil Mickelson has ridden a hot putter to the top of the leaderboard:

The leaderboard: Phil Mickelson (-9), Scott Gardiner (-7), Nick Watney (-7), George McNeill (-7), Rory McIlroy (-6), Lee Westwood (-6)

What it means: Though the greens at Quail Hollow have proved too difficult to master for several players already this week, Mickelson has had no trouble from short distance, making each of the 31 putts he's faced from 10 feet and in during the first two rounds. Bolstered by his trademark short game that was firing on all cylinders Friday, Lefty now finds himself staked to a two-shot lead in an event where he has had many close calls before.

Round of the day: Mickelson began Friday's round with birdies on each of his first two holes, then birdied both Nos. 7 and 9 en route to an outward 32. After a bogey on the 12th hole, the four-time major champ used expertly executed pitch shots to secure birdies on both 14 and 15 before securing his round of 5-under 67 by successfully navigating the 'Green Mile' in even par.

Best of the rest: Having missed eight consecutive cuts entering the week, Gardiner was on few if any lists of possible contenders before play began. He surprised with a 5-under 67 Friday, though, matching Mickelson for low round of the day honors and breaking 70 for the first time since the third round of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. The Aussie failed to make a bogey during his second round, and was spurred to an outward 31 by four straight birdies on holes 6-9.

Biggest disappointment: While Mickelson was able to conquer the spotty greens Friday, Bubba Watson had no such luck. The former Masters champ began with a three-putt from 11 feet on the 10th hole, then four-putted the 12th hole and added another three-putt from inside 13 feet on the 15th hole. It all added up to a 4-over 76 for the southpaw, and Watson missed just his second cut of the 2013 season.

Main storyline heading into Saturday: A runner up here in 2010 and having tied for third at Quail Hollow in 2007, is this the year that Mickelson finally dons the blue jacket? His precision on and around the greens thus far has allowed him to gain several strokes on the field through two rounds, but several top-ranked players are lurking just a few shots back, including McIlroy and Westwood.

Shot of the day: Though he won't be around to play the weekend, Bill Haas exited the 18th hole in style Friday to finish off his second-round 70. Haas was long and left of the green, on the wrong side of a creek lining the putting surface and up against some rocks. His pitch from the hazard cleared both the rocks and the hazard, though, before tumbling into the hole for an unexpected birdie. Though the shot was memorable, the Wake Forest grad missed the cut, as his 7-over 79 Thursday was too much to overcome.

Quote of the day: 'I think tee-to-green it's one of the best we have, one of the best I've ever seen in the game...I've had great finishes here, but I haven't capped it off. It would mean a lot to win.' – Mickelson, who has been inside the top 10 six of the past nine years at Quail Hollow.

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