Weakened Mickelson Playing Strong at Buick

RSS

Phil Mickelson says he's 10 pounds lighter from a bout with food poisoning, but his game is showing no signs of weakness.
 
Mickelson fired an eight-under-par 64 on the easier North Course at Torrey Pine Golf Club to tie Davis Love III for the lead through two rounds of the Buick Invitational in La Jolla, Calif.
 
'As the week has gone on, I've slowly felt better and better,' Mickelson said. 'Hopefully, by tomorrow or Sunday I'll be 100 percent.'
 
Mickelson and Love, who shot 67 on the North Course, stand at 12-under-par; one shot clear of overnight leader Brent Geiberger, who carded a three-under-par 69 on the South Course.
 
Mickelson won't have to look over his shoulder to find Love this weekend at the Buick Invitational. He'll be right by his side. The two will be paired together for the third consecutive round on Saturday.
 
Love is in search of his second straight PGA Tour victory, after having broken a 62-start winless drought at last week's AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. Love came from seven shots back as the final round began to win his 14th career Tour event, doing so at Mickelson's expense.
 
Mickelson held a share of the 54-hole lead at Pebble, and was within one shot of Love playing the 72nd hole, but pushed his second shot to the par-five 18th into the rocks along the Pacific Ocean shoreline. He carded a double bogey and finished in a tie for third.
 
Mickelson made large strides to redeeming himself in the second round. The defending champion went out in three-under-par 33, and then birdied four of his final six holes for his best round of the season.
 
'I've played at a very slow pace and haven't really had a problem,' said Mickelson, who also held a share of the lead through two rounds a year ago. 'I don't know if there's a benefit, but certainly there's an old saying, `Beware of the ailing golfer.''
 
After closing in 63 to win Pebble, and opening in 65 this week, Love carded yet another impressive round on Friday. Love can thank his iron play for his score of five-under-par 67.
 
Love hit only four of 14 fairways in the second round, but found 15 of the 18 greens in regulation. Following a bogey at the par-four 11th, his second hole of the day, Love birdied three of his final five holes on his outward half. He then moved to double digits under par with a birdie at the par-four fourth, his 13th, before finishing his day with back-to-back birdies at the eighth and ninth holes.
 
'I got away with one today,' said Love. 'I drove it all over the place, but made some good saves. I have to get better to keep up with Phil and the others.'
 
One of those 'others' will be Tiger Woods.
 
Two years ago, Woods flirted with the cutline before shooting rounds of 62-65 to win. Last year, Woods entered the weekend six shots off the lead. He then fired rounds of 67-68 to contend for the title. This year, Woods is five strokes off the pace with 36 holes remaining.
 
Woods carded a second-round 67 on the South Course. Once again, putting proved to be Tiger's foil. Though he took eight fewer putts (26-34) in round two than he did in his opening 70, Woods lipped-out a number of birdie putts - something that has plagued him throughout the early part of this season.
 
Tiger appeared set to make a late rally on Friday when he eagled the par-five 13th to move to six-under for the tournament, but promptly bogeyed the next hole. Tiger atoned for an errant approach shot at the 14th by sticking his second shot to the par-four 15th to within five feet of the cup. He converted the birdie to move back to six-under-par, where he finished the day.
 
'I've been saying it all year - I'm not that far off,' Woods said. 'I just have to stay patient. I've been through this before and when it clicks, it's going to be pretty good.'
 
Tiger did lose his patience with the swarming media, fans and marshals crowded behind the scorer's tent. Woods was quick with his word following his round, and made a sharp jaunt to the putting green.
 
There are 18 players within four shots of the lead, including Mike Weir, Jose Maria Olazabal, Brad Faxon and Tom Lehman. Weir is in a tie for fifth at nine-under after a round of 67. Olazabal (68), Faxon (69) and Lehman (68) share 10th place at eight-under.
 
Still, the weather may be the determining factor as to wins this event. Friday was expected to be the last day of dry, sunny conditions before cold rain moves in for the weekend.
 
News, Notes and Numbers
*The cutline fell at three-under-par 141. Charley Hoffman, a San Diego native who received a sponsor's exemption, will miss the cut. After opening in 67, Hoffman was ten strokes higher on Friday. He finished the tournament at even-par 144.
 
*The South Course will be in rotation for the final two rounds. Through two rounds the South has played at 70.945, while the North has played at 70.520. Both courses are par-72.
 
Click here for Full-Field scores from the Buick Invitational!