Mickelson Charge Fades Late

By Associated PressAugust 13, 2004, 4:00 pm
04 PGA ChampionshipHAVEN, Wis. --Of all the punishment that Pete Dye built into Whistling Straits, he kept it mercifully free of water hazards. After all, he already had a little thing called Lake Michigan running the length of the course and bordering eight different holes.
Then there's the fifth hole, a 598-yard par 5 called the 'Snake' for the way it weaves between two ponds on a double dogleg to the green. And that was enough water to sink Phil Mickelson's charge up the leaderboard in the second round of the PGA Championship on Friday.
'I shot 3 under on the front nine and felt like I was playing very well,' he said after losing four strokes in four holes to make a 72 for the day and head into the weekend at 3 under. 'I could just feel the putter getting a little cold.'
Mickelson was 3 under for the day - minus-6 for the tournament - and sitting on a nice stretch of the fifth fairway where it runs away from the galleries, leaving the golfers alone with their thoughts. An intermittent rain had picked up, and Mickelson took shelter under an umbrella while he waited for the putting surface to clear.
Aiming for the pin that was tucked 20 feet back and to the right of the green, Mickelson splashed his second shot into the water. He put his fourth shot about 20 feet from the hole, then three-putted from there for a double-bogey 7.
Suddenly, instead of yelling 'You da man!' and 'Go, Phil!' the fans were shouting consolation cheers like, 'We still love you,' and 'Phil, you have a beautiful family!'
On the par-4 sixth hole, Mickelson drove into the left rough but put his second shot 6 feet from the hole; his birdie putt slid by the lip and he settled for par. On the seventh, a 221-yard par 3, he left himself on the lower edge of the green, with two ridges between him and the hole; he missed an 8-footer to save par.
No. 8 is a 507-yard par 4 and Mickelson left his second shot short and to the right of the green, closer to Lake Michigan than the pin. He pitched to 50 feet and left himself 2 feet short on his par putt to drop to 2 under.
Only a 20-foot putt for birdie on No. 9, his last hole of the day, allowed him to bring some optimism into the third round.
'It was nice to finish by making a putt, because the eight holes previous to that were not very good for me,' he said. 'I had a lot of chances. I could have had a very low day, a really good day and I let it slide.'
Having begun 2004 best known as the best player without a major victory, Mickelson guaranteed himself a good year when he won the Masters. He then finished second in the U.S. Open and third at the British Open, putting him in position to become the first player to finish in the top three in all four majors in one year.
Even better, he gave himself a chance for a second major when he shot 69 in the PGA's first round. Then he birdied his first hole out on Friday, the 10th, and picked up a pair of strokes on Nos. 15-16 to move onto the leaderboard at 6 under.
But the front nine was a different story.
He had 32 putts in the round - 19 of them after making the turn - with three putts apiece on Nos. 5 and 7. After hitting six of seven fairways on the back nine, he hit just three of seven on the front, and on two of those he wound up failing to make the green in regulation, anyway.
To Mickelson, the problem wasn't the strokes he lost to the water but the ones he lost on the greens.
'I knew I would play well before I teed off. I felt very sharp,' said Mickelson, who banged in a series of putts on the practice green before getting an emphatic handshake and sendoff from short-game guru Dave Pelz. 'For an eight-hole stretch the putter just didn't cooperate. I really gave a lot of shots away there.'
Mickelson went to the clubhouse five strokes behind Briny Baird, who was 8 under heading into the cut, and keeping his fingers crossed that the course would be more challenging as the wind picked up.
'If I can continue to get better as the week wears on and play well on Saturday and Sunday, I certainly like the position,' he said. 'But it's got to stay difficult and the wind has got to stay up. Otherwise ... I will be in a difficult spot.'
Related Links:
  • Leaderboard - PGA Championship
  • Photo Gallery - Whistling Straits
  • Full Coverage - PGA Championship
  • Course Tour - Whistling Straits
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