Mickelson enters the halfway point at the Verizon Byron Nelson Classic three shots off the pace set by Shigeki Maruyama. Mickelsons first-round 69 was a little so-so, but his second-round 64 was winning golf. Its what you would expect of a guy who has finished in the top 10 in his last four tournaments ' three thirds and a tie for ninth. He used two eagles ' at the seventh and 11th holes ' to catapult him into the race.
Maruyama was even more brilliant in grabbing the lead after two rounds. He fired a 63 and went to the top with a score of 10-under-par. He birdied four straight holes on the TPC on the front, starting with No. 5, and added three more birdies on the back. The highlight of his round was a 40-foot putt on No. 17.
Mickelson won here in 1996, finished in a tie for second in 2000, and ended up tied for sixth in 1998. The strong finishes arent accidents, he says, although he struggles to put a tangible excuse for his high finishes at the Nelson and the MasterCard Colonial, which will be played next week in nearby Fort Worth.
Theres really no reason, except that I like the golf courses, Mickelson said Friday. They (the Byron Nelson and Colonial) are very similar greens, as far as type of grass. So its not a big adjustment to go from one course to another. They make it very easy to play golf there.
I dont really know as far as a great explanation. I enjoy the two weeks, I enjoy the entertainment. Both tournaments do a great job of giving the players something to do.
Mickelson took in a Dallas Mavericks' NBA playoff game with Sacramento Thursday night. Friday night he was to go to a Texas Rangers baseball game. Saturday, of course, he would be back at his day job, which is knocking in birdies ' and eagles.
I have to play the same way I did today, if I expect to win, said Mickelson. I am very pleased that 6-under got me back in contention. Because I expected 12- or 13-under to be leading the tournament and 7-under tied for about 12th. So, to be in the top five and only a couple from the lead (actually three from the lead) is a great place to be, given the first-round (69).
Also creeping up the leaderboard was another well-known late-runner. Tiger Woods opened with a 73 when seemingly everyone else was shredding the two Nelson courses. He hadnt played in a month and the inactivity obviously affected him. But Friday he was back to his usual tricks, firing a 65 to get back to 4-under.
Also hot was Jim Carter, who got to 9-under before a bogey at No. 18 on the Cottonwood Valley course dropped him to 8-under. He is tied for the runner-up spot with Paul Stankowski after two rounds.
Ive been giving myself a lot of opportunities, said Carter. Thats what I need to do on the weekend ' just give myself chances. Its going to come down to who makes the putts.
Full-field scores from the Verizon Byron Nelson Classic