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Shigeki Leads But Mickelson In Usual Role

IRVING, Texas -- All is right in the sporting world, thank you. Phil Mickelson is back in his usual position, contending in a golf tournament. Its amazing how a well-placed 64 will do that for you. Its even more interesting how a couple of eagles can propel you back into the thick of the race.
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