PINEHURST, N.C. -- Phil Mickelson's blown a lot of opportunities at the US Open over the past 15 years, but he usually waits until the weekend to boot his chance of winning America's championship. Not so this time around.
After a steady -- albeit relatively uninspiring -- round of par 70 on Thursday, Lefty came out of the gates firing Friday. He made birdie at two and three and it looked like he found the putting stroke he's been missing for months.
It looked wrong.
Mickelson would spend his afternoon missing short putts and slowly dropping far enough back after a 3-over 73 and 13 shots behind Martin Kaymer's 10-under lead that a victory this year feels all but impossible.
Mickelson sounded disappointed after his round.
"The hole looks like a thimble to me right now and I'm having trouble finding it," he said.
With momentum begging to hop on his bag and ride, Phil missed a three-foot par putt at the par-3 No. 6. A brutal three-jack bogey, particularly after only managing par at the par-5 fifth, was foreboding to say the least.
Mickelson would bogey the eighth hole as well, leaving him at even par as he made the turn and sending the crowd basically sprinting to the exit gate.
The good news: they were ALL stopping by the merchandise tent, located near the tee box on No. 12. By the time Phil made it there, he was 1-over thanks to a bogey-6 on 10.
This resulted in a longer line for the merchandise tent than there was to watch Phil. Literally:
If there was ever a day to spend an afternoon watching Mickelson on the golf course, Friday was it. The crowd thinned out enough (blame Kaymer for playing really well, not the rest of the field for playing to the course) to the point you could walk with Phil and not deal with any of the four-deep lines you typically see.
At one point I was less than 20 yards from Mickelson, watching him hit his second shot on 11 and I could've laid down and done a snow angel in the pinestraw without hitting anyone.
Unfortunately the luck of spending an afternoon that close to Mickelson didn't extend to Lefty on the course.
Mickelson's day was summed up nicely on 14, when a short par putt caught a lip, spun off the edge and resulted in a bogey.
Phil's frustration was palpable.
Can you blame him? Kaymer carved up Pinehurst on Friday morning but Phil got a chance to make things interesting. Anything under par would've set him up for a weekend run and put some knocks in Kaymer's knees.
There's always hope for a random big weekend round -- Phil's acknowledged he plays better when no one's banking on it -- and Kaymer could definitely come back to the field.
Mickelson said as much on Friday night.
"I don't worry too much about where the lead is," said Mickelson. "I just want to go out and play a solid round."
The championship course is playing difficult enough to make it happen. As Mickelson can attest after Friday's round.