Coming to Royal Liverpool as the defending champion, Phil Mickelson certainly looked like someone who felt that many of his struggles were behind him. Without a single top-ten finish in 15 PGA Tour starts this season, the memory of his dramatic comeback victory at Muirfield last year had his spirits high.
Things didn’t start as planned for Lefty on Thursday, as he got off to a rocky, two-over-par 74 start at the Open Championship. He caught a bit of an unfortunate draw, missing out on spectacular morning weather with an afternoon tee time, coming down the stretch with three bogeys in his final six holes, a stretch where most of the leaders went low.
Thankfully, Mickelson recovered well on Friday, posting a two-under-par 70 to move back to even par for the tournament. He’s still a whopping nine shots back of leader Rory McIlroy at the time of this writing, but he’s comfortably under the cut line. That will give him some time to make some moves, but will it be enough as the leaders seem to keep posting birdies in bunches?
Oddly enough, as good as the weather has been in Hoylake for the first two days of play, Mickelson is actually looking forward to more “Open-like” weather, meaning a bit of rain and some gustier winds, to help him out. Crazy as that seems, it might be just what he needs.
Every day, it seems, Mickelson at least says he feels like he’s hitting the ball better than he did the day before. Although the scores aren’t really showing it, he feels that he’s controlling his ball flight well, and that’s one of the qualities that hasn’t really been tested under the English summer sun this week.
When he won the Claret Jug last year, Mickelson’s best shot was a low, piercing 3-wood that stayed out of the wind and ran out for what felt like miles. He may well have that shot in his bag right now, but none of the leaders have had to deal with the conditions that Mickelson has learned to deal with over the last 20 years or so.
Realistically, Mickelson is all but out of winning contention, especially with McIlroy playing as well as he is. But as we’ve seen at so many Opens, when Mother Nature intervenes, some crazy things can happen. Mickelson isn’t going to just give up, and that should at least make for some entertaining golf this weekend.