Blog Entry

Phil lurks on PGA periphery, literally

Posted on: August 13, 2010 9:09 pm

SHEBOYGAN, Wis. – For 27 holes, Phil Mickelson took the route less traveled on a punitive golf course that isn’t fit for man or mountain goat.

He paid the price.

“This is a penalizing golf course to not play from the fairway,” Mickelson said. “And I certainly explored a lot of areas here.”

The globetrotter act aside, he finally found what he was looking for on his back nine on Friday, rallying to finish with a 3-under 69 that left him six strokes behind Matt Kuchar at the 92nd PGA Championship at Whistling Straits.

The low point for Mickelson, still trying to unseat Tiger Woods as No. 1, drove into a hazard on the 18th and made a double bogey. Looking like it might be another meaningless week, Mickelson finally put something together on the back nine with four birdies in a 3-under 33.

“First 27 holes, for me to keep it around par was a feat, and I drove it better the last nine holes,” he said. “Hit one bad drive and of course, I bogeyed that hole. But other than that, the holes that I drove it well on those last nine I was able to attack the pins. 

“The greens are receptive, if you can get the ball in the fairway, you can go after the pins and once you're on the green you can really make a lot of putts. There's not too much break.”

Mickelson cut down the length of his driver shaft by one inch last week and installed a heavier shaft in an attempt to rein in his wildness off the tee. So far, it hasn’t worked much -- he found 7 of 14 on Friday. He never contended on the weekend last week at the Bridgestone Invitational after heading into the third round in second place.

“A lot of that [reasoning behind the driver change] was for Whistling Straits because I didn't feel distance was critical off the tee,” he said. “I felt it was more important to keep the ball low and out of the wind.  And so this driver launches a lot lower and stays in play. Should stay in play a lot more -- but that wasn't obviously the case.”

Still, when he won the Masters in April to collect his fourth major title, he wasn’t exactly lighting up the world early, either.

“I grinded pretty hard just to get in and you just never know what can happen in a major and I shot 10under on the weekend at Augusta and was able to leapfrog everybody and was quite a ways back,” he said. “I just want to be in a position where if I play like I know I can, I can make up some ground.  And I feel like I'm within striking distance.”

Perhaps the best news is that while Matt Kuchar’s lead over Lefty is six, there are only 17 players ahead of Mickelson on the scoreboard.

“It required a lot of patience to not force the issue today,” Mickelson said. “I obviously didn't have it all today. I wasn't putting myself in great positions off the tee, to where I could attack. Because of that, I had to be patient and try to just keep myself in position to where I could maybe make up the ground over the next two rounds.”

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