Feb
1
2013
Phil the Thrill!
By Stephanie Wei under PGA Tour
Phil the Thrill

Lots of Lefty Love from fans on 16 on Friday

One thing’s for sure: Phil Mickelson has a flair for drama. He keeps us on the edge of our seats because you never know what Phil might do (or say in rare cases) next. It’s part of his aura and appeal to fans.

Despite a(nother) disappointing — relatively speaking — finish, Phil still leads by four over Bill Haas. A day after his birdie putt on his last hole to shoot 59 did a near 360 before lipping out, Mickelson, who was eight-under going into 18 in the second round, knocked his 3-wood in the water hazard guarding the left side. 

He took a penalty stroke and then made a drop. His third shot came up short of the green and his chip ran by the hole, leaving Phil with a seven-footer to save bogey. He missed and tapped-in for a double-bogey to fire six-under 65. Which totally sucks! Especially a day after shooting 60. I mean, it’s not like it’s hard to follow a low-round like that!

Well, good news is Phil was bogey-free.

Seriously speaking, he put on an impressive performance, and I know it’s only Friday, but Phil feeds off momentum.

“I played well today,” said Phil. “I didn’t get off to the fastest start but was patient and ended up making a lot of birdies and eagles there in middle of the round.  Unfortunately I made a double on the last hole and didn’t finish the way I wanted to.  But I think it’s a good example of what can happen on this course.  You can make a lot of birdies and eagles, make up a lot of ground, but there’s a lot of water and trouble there that if you misstep you can easily make bogeys and double.

“It’ll be an interesting weekend because I think it’s going to be kind of a shootout where a lot of guys will be making runs, and it’ll be up to me and the other guys in the last group to get going, as well.”

Is it weird to be 17-under and feel disappointed with your round? Well, you never want to end with a double-bogey (duh). It’s obviously better to start with one and finish strong.

“You know what happens; you always remember kind of the last hole, the last putt, what have you, but  I think it’s very possible that’s going to help me because it’s got me refocused, that I cannot ease up on a single shot,” said Phil. “I’ve got to be really focused.  These guys are going to make a lot of birdies and I’ve got to get after it and cannot make those kinds of mistakes.  Hopefully it’ll help me refocus for tomorrow’s round and come out and shoot something low.”

Meanwhile, Phil will be paired with Keegan Bradley and Bill Haas on Saturday. Sound familiar? If so, that’s because those three players were in a three-way playoff last year at the Northern Trust Open. On the second playoff hole Haas drained a 50-footer for birdie to win.

“One of us did, yeah,” said Phil, smiling, when a reporter commented, “The three of you had a pretty good time at Riviera..”

Haas, who flew kind of under the radar, shot 65 in the first round and followed it with a seven-under 64 on Friday.

When Haas was on the 6th green (he started on No. 10), he saw a scoreboard that showed Phil was 17-under.

“And I remember thinking, yeah, just do what you can do, and hats off to a guy that’s shooting that low for two days,” said Haas after the second round.

It’s not that often when there’s so many strokes in between first- and-second- round. In some ways it takes the pressure off the guys chasing.

“A little bit, but I also know that second is better than third, and I’m just trying to hit as many good shots as I can,” said Bill when I asked if it loosened him up.

Can he or Keegan or anyone else catch Phil? Well, it’s in the realm of possibility, of course.

“Obviously we would need (Phil) to do that on 18, and we need him to do more stuff like that for us to catch him,” said Haas. “I don’t think it’s that big of a speed bump for him.  He’ll make a lot of birdies.

“But we all know the way the course is playing, if there’s no wind on the weekend, you’ve just got to keep making birdies.”

What’s working for Haas this week?

Well, he lengthened his Scotty Cameron putter by an inch (to 36″).

“It’s something I think feels a little more comfortable,” said Bill. “This has been the first week where I feel like I’m rolling it nice for two days, and I don’t know if that’s exactly the key, but it was a little bit.”

Haas also worked with short-game guru Stan Utley, who lives in Scottsdale, “officially” for the first time.

“It’s a normal length putter, but 35 is standard, but I was talking about Stan Utley and he basically said, who says what standard is,” Bill explained. “We’re all different.  You shouldn’t use a 35-inch putter because you’re shorter than me. So my standard maybe is a little longer.  But it’s just something I’m trying this week.”

It’s certainly working.

Haas used a belly putter for the first half of the 2012 season, but hasn’t put it in his bag for tournament play in a while. However, he did mess around with it on Wednesday on the practice green.

“The belly doesn’t feel as comfortable as it did when I first used it in 2011 (at The Heritage,” he said.  “There’s something to say about the belly, and it might have been just practicing with it might have helped me a little bit.”

Added Haas: “I’ve had (Utley) look at me one time before, but this would be the first real week that I asked him, I said, I need you to look at me.”

**************

Alright, it’s Bird’s Nest time. I haven’t gone all week, so I have to go check it out and report about it. O.A.R. is playing tonight. Strangely enough, between here and college, I’ve seen them in concert more times than anyone else. I’ll take pictures and videos of the crazy drunken scene. Which should be interesting, to say the least.

 

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)