x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Mickelson surges up US Open leaderboard

Masters champion Phil Mickelson has homed in on the second leg of golf's grand slam with a birdie barrage but Graeme McDowell still sits atop the US Open leaderboard.

Masters champion Phil Mickelson homed in on the second leg of golf's grand slam with a birdie barrage on Friday, but it was still Graeme McDowell atop the US Open leaderboard. After Northern Ireland's McDowell fired six birdies in a three-under 68 for three-under 139, Mickelson came out firing, producing the best round of the tournament with a five-under 66. The affable American, who could not muster a single birdie in a dismal putting round on Thursday, reeled off three in a row from the second and added two more on the front for good measure as he surged up the leaderboard in search of the second leg of golf's grand slam.

Mickelson, too, finished with six birdies, his only miscue a bogey at the par-four ninth, positioning himself for a weekend charge on a day when Tiger Woods again could not break par. Mickelson's sparkling effort gave him a share of second place, two shots behind McDowell on one-under 141. "I'm in a good spot," Mickelson said. "I don't look at the leaderboard, I don't look at other players. I look at par. If you can stay around par, you're going to be in the tournament Sunday."

He was tied with South African Ernie Els, Japanese teenager Ryo Ishikawa and American Dustin Johnson. Woods did nab three birdies - his first of the tournament - en route to an unimpressive 72. He insisted his four-over total of 146 put him in striking range on the weekend. "I'm right there," Woods said. "I'm going to have to make a few more birdies - I'm going to have to make a few more over the weekend in order to win."

Birdies were no problem for Mickelson and McDowell. Mickelson, who said his putting needed just a slight tweak from Thursday, launched his assault at the par-four second, where he landed his approach within four feet. "I think that birdieing the second hole, even though it was only a three-footer, it was uphill, I was able to be aggressive, roll it in, see a birdie putt go in and it just gave me some confidence," he said.

From there the momentum built. "I felt like I had a lot of easy pars, the holes that I didn't birdie were pretty easy pars," Mickelson said. "The greens that I missed I didn't have too difficult a chip shot. But for the most part I hit a lot of greens ... I wasn't overstressing the entire round trying to hit miraculous shots." McDowell made the most of the good scoring conditions in damp morning weather - at least once he woke up.

"You're always surprised to be under par at a US Open golf course," said McDowell, whose claimed his fifth European Tour title in Wales a fortnight ago. He got off to a rocky, bogey-birdie-bogey start from the 10th before a 30-foot putt for birdie at the par-five 14th "kind of got my day going," he said. "I played lovely after that, gave myself a ton of chances." Both Mickelson and McDowell bogeyed the par-four ninth, McDowell with a three-putt.

"You've got to accept on this golf course, you get out of position, you're going to make bogey, simple as that," McDowell said. Mickelson's par putt at the ninth was a rare downhill one on the day. "It looked like it was going to go in and it just went off," he said. "And that's going to happen out here." McDowell, mindful of the fact that a European hasn't won the US Open since Tony Jacklin in 1970, said he would try not to get ahead of himself come the weekend.

"I'm really trying to put no expectations on myself this weekend because A, I know there's a lot of great players out here and B, this golf course is extremely difficult." Els also carded a 68 to join the quartet in second place. Ishikawa, playing in his first US Open, posted an even-par 71 and Johnson a one-under 70. It was a further stroke back to Germany's Alex Cejka (72), England's Paul Casey (73), Zimbabwe's Brendon de Jonge (73) and American Jerry Kelly (70). *AFP

Collated second-round scores in the US Open golf championship at the par-71, 7,040-yard Pebble Beach Golf Links (A-denotes amateur): 139 - Graeme McDowell (NIR) 71-68 141 - Ernie Els (RSA) 73-68, Dustin Johnson (USA) 71-70, Ryo Ishikawa (JPN) 70-71, Phil Mickelson (USA) 75-66 142 - Alex Cejka (GER) 70-72, Paul Casey (ENG) 69-73, Brendon de Jonge (ZIM) 69-73, Jerry Kelly (USA) 72-70 143 - Soren Kjeldsen (DEN) 72-71, KJ Choi (KOR) 70-73, Ian Poulter (ENG) 70-73 144 - A-Scott Langley (USA) 75-69, Gregory Havret (FRA) 73-71, Tim Clark (RSA) 72-72 145 - Lee Westwood (ENG) 74-71, Martin Kaymer (GER) 74-71, Charl Schwartzel (RSA) 74-71, Jason Allred (USA) 72-73, Jason Preeo (USA) 75-70, Rafael Cabrera Bello (ESP) 70-75, Justin Leonard (USA) 72-73, Jason Dufner (USA) 72-73, Ross McGowan (ENG) 72-73 146 - Shaun Micheel (USA) 69-77, Noh Seung-yul (KOR) 74-72, Vijay Singh (FIJ) 74-72, Tiger Woods (USA) 74-72, Fred Funk (USA) 74-72, Luke Donald (ENG) 71-75, Padraig Harrington (IRL) 73-73, Matt Kuchar (USA) 74-72, Scott Verplank (USA) 72-74, Lucas Glover (USA) 73-73, David Toms (USA) 71-75, Matt Bettencourt (USA) 72-74 147 - Steven Wheatcroft (USA) 74-73, Sean O'Hair (USA) 76-71, A-Russell Henley (USA) 73-74, Edoardo Molinari (ITA) 75-72, Bo Van Pelt (USA) 72-75, Camilo Villegas (COL) 78-69, Angel Cabrera (ARG) 75-72, Jim Furyk (USA) 72-75, Henrik Stenson (SWE) 77-70, Nick Watney (USA) 76-71, Robert Karlsson (SWE) 75-72 148 - David Duval (USA) 75-73, Ben Curtis (USA) 78-70, Rhys Davies (WAL) 78-70, Ryan Moore (USA) 75-73, Matthew Richardson (ENG) 73-75, Erick Justesen (USA) 74-74, Steve Marino (USA) 73-75, Robert Allenby (AUS) 74-74, Eric Axley (USA) 75-73, Ricky Barnes (USA) 72-76, Craig Barlow (USA) 73-75 149 - Gareth Maybin (NIR) 74-75, Chris Stroud (USA) 77-72, Sergio Garcia (ESP) 73-76, Pablo Martin (ESP) 73-76, Steve Stricker (USA) 75-74, Davis Love (USA) 75-74, Peter Hanson (SWE) 73-76, Tom Watson (USA) 78-71, Kenny Perry (USA) 72-77, Brandt Snedeker (USA) 75-74, John Mallinger (USA) 77-72, Toru Taniguchi (JPN) 73-76, Hiroyuki Fujita (JPN) 72-77, Zach Johnson (USA) 72-77, Retief Goosen (RSA) 75-74, Mike Weir (CAN) 70-79, Stuart Appleby (AUS) 73-76, Stewart Cink (USA) 76-73, Yuta Ikeda (JPN) 77-72, Thongchai Jaidee (THA) 74-75, Jason Gore (USA) 76-73, Jim Herman (USA) 76-73, Bobby Gates (USA) 75-74, Kent Jones (USA) 73-76, Ty Tryon (USA) 75-74 Failed to qualify 150 - Jean-Francois Lucquin (FRA) 75-75, Simon Dyson (ENG) 76-74, Tom Lehman (USA) 76-74, Alvaro Quiros (ESP) 80-70, Miguel Angel Jimenez (ESP) 73-77, Ross Fisher (ENG) 74-76, Azuma Yano (JPN) 74-76, A-Hudson Swafford (USA) 76-74, A-Morgan Hoffmann (USA) 75-75, Geoff Ogilvy (AUS) 79-71, Adam Scott (AUS) 77-73, David Frost (RSA) 73-77, Trevor Immelman (RSA) 74-76, Arjun Atwal (IND) 75-75, Hugo Leon (CHI) 73-77 151 - Richard Barcelo (USA) 77-74, Marc Leishman (AUS) 77-74, John Rollins (USA) 74-77, JJ Henry (USA) 79-72, Louis Oosthuizen (RSA) 77-74, Oliver Wilson (ENG) 75-76, Kenny Kim (KOR) 78-73, Brian Gay (USA) 78-73, Simon Khan (ENG) 76-75, Rory Sabbatini (RSA) 74-77 152 - Paul Goydos (USA) 76-76, Ben Crane (USA) 80-72, Rory McIlroy (NIR) 75-77, Heath Slocum (USA) 75-77, Steve Allan (AUS) 78-74, Gary Woodland (USA) 76-76, Mikko Ilonen (FIN) 75-77, Hunter Mahan (USA) 78-74, Jon Curran (USA) 75-77 153 - Gary Boyd (ENG) 78-75, Michael Sim (AUS) 77-76, Paul Sheehan (AUS) 80-73 154 - Rocco Mediate (USA) 77-77, Brian Davis (ENG) 80-74, Bob Estes (USA) 77-77, John Senden (AUS) 80-74, Jerry Smith (USA) 78-76, James Morrison (ENG) 78-76, Charles Warren (USA) 75-79, Francesco Molinari (ITA) 79-75, A-An Byeong-hun (KOR) 79-75, A-Joseph Bramlett (USA) 79-75, Kaname Yokoo (JPN) 76-78, A-Andrew Putnam (USA) 76-78 155 - Rafael Echenique (ARG) 76-79, Rikard Karlberg (SWE) 77-78, Harrison Frazar (USA) 78-77, A-Ben Martin (USA) 78-77, Kent Eger (CAN) 76-79 156 - Mathias Gronberg (SWE) 80-76, Daniel Summerhays (USA) 79-77, Yang Yong-eun (KOR) 73-83, Kevin Na (USA) 80-76 157 - Terry Pilkadaris (AUS) 78-79, Aaron Baddeley (AUS) 80-77, Travis Hampshire (USA) 81-76 158 - Erik Compton (USA) 77-81, A-Kevin Phelan (IRL) 83-75, Deane Pappas (RSA) 81-77, Soren Hansen (DEN) 78-80, Stephen Ames (CAN) 74-84, Dan McCarthy (USA) 80-78 159 - Derek Lamely (USA) 78-81 161 - Michael Campbell (NZL) 78-83 163 - Alex Martin (USA) 79-84 164 - Mark Silvers (USA) 82-82 165 - Blaine Peffley (USA) 86-79 166 - A-Bennett Blakeman (USA) 81-85