Mickelson Finds Way To Play Weekend At U.S. Open
By Dave Shedloski
San Francisco – Phil Mickelson found a way to stay alive in the U.S. Open. Now he can concentrate on somehow getting himself back in contention in the one major championship that at this stage of his career means the most to him.
Capping his round with a 9-foot birdie putt on the home hole, the left-hander from San Diego shot an even-par 70 Friday at The Olympic Club and made the cut with a shot to spare, completing 36 holes in 7-over 147.
He’s still eight strokes behind the leaders – Jim Furyk, David Toms and Tiger Woods, all of whom have won a major – but Mickelson obviously is aware that you can’t win if you don’t play the weekend. So at least that mission was accomplished.
“I haven't really looked at the leaderboard. I've been more on the cut line,” said the 1990 U.S. Amateur champion, who has been a U.S. Open runner-up a record five times.
“It depends on how (Saturday) goes,” the 42-year-old Mickelson added when asked about getting his name higher up on the leaderboard. “Obviously I'll be one of the first groups [off], and I've got to play a good solid round. I felt like … I played well enough today to shoot under par, and I have to shoot three or four under par tomorrow to have a chance for Sunday. It's out there, but it's very difficult. You've got to strike it well, but you've got to make some putts. To come back from eight shots will be very tough.”
The cut of low 60 and ties fell at 8-over 148 with 72 players – 69 professionals and three amateurs – advancing. But what was newsworthy Friday night was not only who failed to earn a weekend tee time, but also the manner in which they were dismissed.
The USGA this year eliminated the 10-shot rule. That provision had added any players beyond the low 60 and ties provided they were within 10 strokes of the lead – though no player had ever won after making the cut via the added buffer.
Among the players eliminated at 149 who in past years would have kept playing were Masters champion Bubba Watson, Masters runner-up and 2010 British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen, 2009 U.S. Open winner Lucas Glover, disabled golfer Casey Martin, and Dustin Johnson, the most recent winner on the PGA Tour.
Notable players beyond that score included Luke Donald, the No. 1-ranked player in the world, and No. 2 Rory McIlroy, the defending champion who made more bogeys in two rounds than he had all of last year at Congressional.
“Obviously disappointed. It wasn't the way I wanted to play,” McIlroy said after shooting 77-73–150. “I left myself with a lot of work to do after yesterday's round, and to be honest overall I don't feel like I played that badly for the last two days. It's just such a demanding golf course and just punishes the slightest shot that's off-line or that's maybe not the right distance. That's how I feel. I feel like you really have to be so precise out there and if you're [not you are] going to get punished.”
Donald also needed a rally Friday, but could only manage 72-151. He missed his third cut in six years, and he withdrew with a wrist injury from a fourth (2008 at Torrey Pines).
Other casualties: 2006 U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy, 74-150; Colt Knost, who won the 2007 U.S. Amateur at Olympic (78-153); 2005 U.S. Open winner Michael Campbell (74-153); and 14-year-old Chinese amateur Andy Zhang, the youngest to ever compete in the championship, who shot 78-157.
U.S. Senior Open champion Olin Browne fell short at 74-151, but 53-year-old Michael Allen, a member of Olympic who entered via sectional qualifying, added a 73 to an opening 71 and stood T-18 and very much in contention at 144.
A number of past U.S. Open champions remained. Two-time winners Ernie Els and Retief Goosen, both of South Africa, stand at 144 and 145, respectively. Els shot one of the seven sub-par rounds Friday, a 69. Goosen birdied his final three holes, going 3-3-2 for 70. Graeme McDowell, the 2010 champion, also made it, and he’s among the leaders at 1-over 141 after a 72.
No. 3 Lee Westwood shot 71-145 to be the highest remaining player in the world rankings still around.
Three of the eight amateurs in the field also survived, led by 17-year-old Southern Californian Beau Hossler, who briefly led the championship when he reached two under par through 11 holes, before falling back to a 73 and 143 total, still well in the hunt.
No. 1-ranked Patrick Cantlay, the U.S. Amateur runner-up and low amateur a year ago at Congressional, cleared on the number with a second-round 72 despite bogeys on the final two holes. Jordan Spieth, like Cantlay a member of the 2011 USA Walker Cup Team and ranked second by the World Amateur Golf Ranking supported by The R&A and USGA, shot his second consecutive 74 to also finish at 148.
Dave Shedloski is an Ohio-based freelance writer whose work has previously appeared on USGA websites.