Mickelson battles rain to keep grip on British Open lead
ReutersTROON, Scotland -- Phil Mickelson followed up his major championship record-tying round with a 2-under 69 on Friday for a one-stroke lead in the 145th Open Championship at Royal Troon Golf Club.In blustery, rainy conditions for his last 10...
TROON, Scotland - Phil Mickelson followed up his major championship record-tying round with a 2-under 69 on Friday for a one-stroke lead in the 145th Open Championship at Royal Troon Golf Club.
In blustery, rainy conditions for his last 10 holes, Mickelson controlled his game and scrambled to get to 10-under 132 midway through the British Open to lead Henrik Stenson, who shot a 65.
“I really enjoy the challenge that this weather and these elements provide,” Mickelson said. “I thought it was a good round to back up the low round yesterday. I played kind of stress-free golf again. I made one or two bad swings that led to bogeys but for the most part kept the ball in play.”
Keegan Bradley and Soren Kjeldsen are tied for third and three shots off the lead after each shot a 68. They are two strokes ahead of defending champion Zach Johnson, who bogeyed the last hole for a 70.
The 46-year-old Mickelson fired an 8-under 63 on Thursday in the opening round, coming within a lipped-out birdie putt on the final hole for a major championship scoring record.
Mickelson heads to the weekend trying to become the oldest Open champion to lift the Claret Jug since Tom Morris in 1867. Mickelson turned 46 last month and Morris was 46 years and 102 days old when he won at nearby Prestwick 149 years ago. The oldest winner of any major is Julius Boros, who was 48 when he won the 1968 PGA Championship. Next is Jack Nicklaus, who was 46 when he won the 1986 Masters.
Mickelson, who got a break on the front nine before the steady rain came and made conditions difficult for players, birdied three of the first eight holes, including a near ace at the par-3 eighth.
On the back nine as rain came down harder, Mickelson made his first bogey of the tournament at the 12th, birdied the 14th and made bogey at the 15th.
“If I look back to my mid-30s, I am 35 pounds lighter, in better shape than I was and can manage the symptoms of my psoriatic arthritis,” Mickelson told the BBC. “I feel stronger and in a better condition than I have ever been.
“I can’t see why I can’t play my best golf in the coming years. I am optimistic about this week and the coming years and the opportunities to add to my resume.”
Mickelson, a five-time major champion and 42-time winner on the PGA Tour, has not won since the 2013 Open at Muirfield.
“It’s a lot easier having already held it,” Mickelson said. “Winning the Open was the greatest challenge of my career, and I’ve already done it. I would love nothing more than to add another one. But knowing I’ve already done it takes the pressure off.”
The 40-year-old Stenson won three weeks ago at the BMW International in Germany, his 10th victory on the European Tour. He is ranked sixth in the world - the highest-ranked player without a major championship.
“I was five back of Phil from yesterday, so of course I was hoping to gain a little, and the way it turned out I gained quite a lot,” said Stenson, who shot a 32 on the back nine. “It’s still early in the tournament, though. We’re only halfway through or not even there. But so far, so good. It’s not easy out there. It’s a great result, really.”
Bradley is back on the leaderboard at a major. This is the last of his five-year exemption based on his PGA Championship victory in 2011. Bradley hasn’t won any tournament in four years and is ranked No. 120 in the world.
“It’s just more fun to play well,” Bradley said. “It’s extra hard to play well and not see the scores, and that’s kind of what’s been happening to me over the last couple of months. That’s actually harder than playing. ... Everybody comes up to me and says, ‘What’s wrong with you?’ And that’s the toughest. Because I tell them, ‘I’m fine.’ I’m enjoying the challenge of getting better.”
World No. 1 Jason Day is 1-over and tied for 41st after a second-round 70. No. 2 Dustin Johnson shot a 69 and is 2-under, eight shots back in a tie for 15th, along with No. 4 Rory McIlroy, who made four bogeys in five holes for a 71.
No. 3 Jordan Spieth shot a 75 and No. 5 Bubba Watson a 76, and both are at 4-over, the cut line for 67th place.
A second-round 76 led Ernie Els to a fourth missed cut - by one stroke - in his past seven British Opens.
Ben Curtis, The Open champion in 2003, recorded a sextuple-bogey 10 at the par-four fourth, hitting his ball into three different bunkers. He finished with a 12-over 83 and a cumulative score of 18-over 160, missing out on the weekend for the third year in a row and seventh time in the last eight years.