Mark SchlapachSenior writer for ESPN4 minutes to read
AUGUSTA, GA — When three-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson came off the 18th green after round two at Augusta National Golf Club on Friday, he was 4-under-36 and beat defending champion Scotty Scheffler and world No. 2 golfer Rory McIlroy.
It wasn’t exactly what anyone expected of the week from the 52-year-old Mickelson, who didn’t play well in his first season with LIV Golf and hasn’t been much better this year.
But Mickelson said he felt he was close to playing golf well and returning to the Masters, a tournament he missed last year but loves the most, has helped him find his level.
“I’m about to be torn apart,” Mickelson said. “Even though the results didn’t show it, like if I hit a lot of good shots, soon I’d get a really low shot. When that happens and it clicks, the game becomes easy again. Then stop putting pressure on myself, and the results start to drop.” .
Mickelson said he felt like he hit the ball better in the opening round on Thursday when he shot a 1-U71 than he did on Friday when he was U3. Mickelson hit 9 of 18 greens (hitting 12 on Thursday) and 11 of 14 fairways for the second consecutive round.
“I actually haven’t hit her anywhere near as well as I did yesterday,” Mickelson said. “But I score well. I hit it up and down, and I hit a lot of good putts. With the exception of one lousy penalty kick at number 6, I had a lot of good saves around the green, block shots, a good 6-footer, and a score.” That’s what I needed to do yesterday, and I could have been really low.”
The six-time major champion started the second round by putting a 27-foot putt on the first hole. He parsed four straight pars from there before hitting a par three in the sixth, causing players plenty of trouble on Friday.
The tee hit Mickelson at the 6 on the green but it rolled and rolled. His delicate shot was too weak and his ball failed to get past the false front. It settled about 62 feet below the hole. Then Mickelson’s jab wasn’t hard enough and almost rolled to his feet. He put two outs for a double bogey.
“My playing partner made 2,” said Mickelson. “It’s never been harder to set it up than it has been. I hit a weak chip. Like I don’t mind being short there. I don’t mind being where I am. It’s a pretty easy shot. The green, and I hit it hard. I don’t think it’s set up any more.” Difficulty. We didn’t play it well.”
Mickelson didn’t make another bogey and added four more birdies, dropping 16 footers in No. 8, 7 footers in Nos. 12 and 13, and a 5 footer in No. 18.
“The 8-iron on 18 was probably the best swing of the day, and making a birdie to that pin is always a good thing because that’s a tough pin to make a 3,” said Mickelson.
It was Mickelson’s 59th career round at the Masters, as he broke a tie with Tom Watson for the second time in the tournament’s history; Jack Nicklaus got 71 such shots. It was also Mickelson’s 34th round of the 60s at the Masters, also second only to Nicklaus (39).
After everything Mickelson has been through in the past 14 months — from his controversial comments about the PGA Tour and publicizing Saudi Arabia’s history of human rights abuses, to being suspended by PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan and going into self-exile — Mickelson appears to have found solace at Augusta National. .
“I would use the word ‘more spiritual’ because if you like golf, when you come here it’s more of a spiritual experience, where you feel this appreciation for this great game and the gratitude that you have,” Mickelson said. “Then this tournament, this tournament gives something for everyone to aspire to. If you’re a kid and you dream of playing in the Masters and you want to win it, that gives you something to aspire to. It did for me.”
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