Phil Mickelson rekindled memories of past success, and he wasn’t the only golfer doing so Friday in the PGA Championship.
Mickelson moved to the top of the leaderboard and shares the lead at the midway mark with South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen at The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island, S.C.
“The fact is I’m heading into the weekend with an opportunity and I’m playing really well and I’m having a lot of fun doing it,” Mickelson said.
Now 50, Mickelson moved to 5 under for the tournament by shooting 3-under 69. His only PGA Championship win came in 2005 at Baltusrol Golf Club.
The crowd at No. 9 roared when he sank his sixth and final birdie of the day.
“It’s really fun, obviously, to make a putt on the last hole, finish a round like that and then to have that type of support here has been pretty special,” Mickelson said. “But it’s been a lot of fun so far.”
No golfer age 50 or older has been in the top five of the PGA Championship through 36 holes since Hale Irwin in 1999.
Later, Oosthuizen posted 68 to move into a tie with Mickelson.
“There’s a lot of golf left,” said Oosthuizen, a 2017 runner-up. “I just feel whenever I get to a major, I sort of have my game where I want to have it, and mentally I feel very strong at a major week.”
Brooks Koepka, who won the tournament in 2018 and 2019, holds third place a stroke back. Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama is among those tied for fourth place at 3 under.
Koepka, who logged a 71, looked poised to hold the overnight lead, especially with sinking long eagle putts on the par-5 seventh and 11th holes. Bogeys on Nos. 15 and 17 soured his round.
Branden Grace and Christiaan Bezuidenhout, a pair of South Africans, are tied with Matsuyama at 3 under.
Grace surged into the lead and was in position to hold the top spot at the midway point. But he lost that chance with a double-bogey on the par-3 17th hole and followed that with another bogey, ending up at 71 for the round.
“I knew I was playing well and just kind of waiting for that one bad thing to happen,” Grace said.
The tournament largely has become a test for players to navigate the windy conditions on the course that hugs the coast.
Mickelson began the round at No. 10 and carded three bogeys and a birdie through that backside. He was almost flawless the rest of the way, finishing the final eight holes with five birdies.
“I was a little shaky on 16, 17 and 18 with the putter. Very tentative,” Mickelson said. “And then I was able to make some adjustments and putt well on my back nine, the front, and made a lot of good putts on that side.”
“Phil is one of the greatest short-game magicians that’s ever lived,” English golfer Paul Casey said. “Recently, he’s maybe not had the control he’s wanted with the longer stuff, but it doesn’t surprise me (that he’s on top).”
First-round leader Corey Conners of Canada tumbled down the leaderboard, shooting 75 and finishing tied for seventh at 2 under. The round included seven bogeys.
Conners, whose 5 under on the opening day gave him a two-shot edge going into the second round, had a miserable stretch on the back nine with four consecutive bogeys. He recovered on the next hole with a birdie on No. 16 before finishing with a pair of pars.
Conners couldn’t replicate his first round.
“You’re going to get in spots where you need to get the ball up-and-down and hole a putt or two, and you need to be able to do that,” Conners said.
Also at 2 under are Gary Woodland (72), Kevin Streelman (72), South Korea’s Sungjae Im (72) and Casey (71).
Reigning U.S. Open champion Bryson DeChambeau turned in a 71, with two bogeys the only time he strayed from pars on the back nine. He’s tied for 12th at 1 under.
Notable golfers missed the cut, including world No. 1 Dustin Johnson. He was at 6 over after his 74, leaving him tied for 82nd. Johnson was runner-up in each of the past two PGA Championships.
Justin Thomas, who won the 2017 event and is ranked second in the world, had his second 75 in as many days. Johnson and Thomas both missed the cut by one shot.
–Field Level Media
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