Kyle Stanley takes the lead by one at Farmers Insurance Open

Kyle Stanley made seven birdies, a bogey and a double bogey.
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

SAN DIEGO (AP)—Phil Mickelson doesn’t lack faith in his game. He just doesn’t have an explanation for a shoddy start to his season.

One week after he had to rally to make the cut in his 2012 debut at the Humana Challenge, he didn’t come close to making the cut at Torrey Pines, getting the weekend off at his hometown event for the first time in 10 years.

“I’ve got to let it go and move on,” Mickelson said.

The Farmers Insurance Open goes forward Saturday with Kyle Stanley, a 24-year-old with the skills of a rising star, making seven birdies on the South Course to overcome a double bogey for a 4-under 68. That gave him a 130 total and a one-shot lead over Brandt Snedeker, who had a 64 on the easier North Course and is making a habit of getting into contention at Torrey Pines.

Mickelson, meanwhile, headed home to nearby Rancho Santa Fe to do a little work and get ready for the Phoenix Open next week.

What’s the problem? He’s not sure.

On paper, it was the 11 bunkers he found on the South Course that led to an opening 77 and forced him to go low on the North just to make it to the weekend. Mickelson needed to make a move when he made the turn and headed to the front nine, which starts with three birdie holes. He played them in even par, and his lot was effectively cast.

“I don’t feel like there’s any one area that I feel about my game,” Mickelson said. “It’s just that I’m not bringing it from the practice session onto the golf course yet. I’m not sure why that is. But the good news is in my practice sessions, it’s been great in every area. “The scores look like I’m way off,” he said. “But it doesn’t look far.”

The flip side of that would be Snedeker.

After the Asia Pacific Classic the last week of October, Snedeker flew home Malaysia and had surgery on his hip. He was on crutches for most of the offseason, returned to practice and came back out earlier than he expected at the Humana Challenge, where he went into the final round with a chance to win and settled for a tie for eighth.

One week later, he’s in the final group going into the weekend.

“I’m certainly surprised that I played this well this fast,” Snedeker said. “Normally, it takes me a while to get the rust off. But my practice at home went really, really well. I was actually chomping at the bit to get out here because I knew I was playing well.

“Hopefully, that can happen through the weekend.”

Sang-Moon Bae, a PGA Tour rookie who is No. 34 in the world, had a 67 to match the best score on the South for the second round. That put him two shots behind at 12-under 132, along with Martin Flores, who also had a 67 on the South.

Hunter Mahan shot 65 on the North, while FedEx Cup champion Bill Haas had a 71 on the South. They were three shots.

The cut came at 2-under 142, and there will be another cut Saturday because more than 78 players are still around. That group includes Geoff Ogilvy, who birdied his last hole on the North for a 70, and Ernie Els, who was at 3-under 141.

Stanley goes about his work quietly. He prefers boring golf of fairways and greens, though there was a little too much excitement when his 7-iron from the rough jumped on his and went over the green, down the slope and into the hazard. He chipped to 5 feet and missed the putt, taking double bogey, effectively wiping out the two birdies he had made.

He followed that with a bogey from the bunker on the par-3 16th.

“I got off to a good start, and it was tough to take,” Stanley said. “But you’ve just got to be patient out here.”

That he was. He had birdie putts on the last 11 holes he played and birdied all the par 5s. As a testament to his length, he hit his tee shot 346 yards on the par-5 ninth, and hit 2-iron from 270 yards.

“Not a very good one,” he said, though it left him an up-and-down from the bunker for one last birdie.

Mickelson had said at the start of the week that he expected to win early during the West Coast swing, which he based on how well he was playing casual rounds and how well he felt during practice. For most of the offseason, he spent up to three hours a day on the green he built in his backyard, going back to his blade putter, trying to get feel back in his hands.

“The exciting thing for me is the last two years, I have not felt good on the greens, and I feel better than I have in years,” he said. “I’m making a lot more putts than I’ve made in years. Each round I’m making extra putts that I haven’t been making.”

It’s just not adding up, and Mickelson was more than a little wistful when he gazed at the blue sky and talked about a perfect weekend of weather on a public course along the Pacific bluffs, one of his favorite places to be this time of the year.

“I’d love to be playing,” he said. “But I don’t have that opportunity.”

Instead, he walked off toward the gallery and stood in place for some 20 minutes to sign autographs.

“Last one,” he said, and as a dozen or so people groaned, Mickelson added, “I just wanted to be sure I took care of the kids.” Just like that, two youngsters came to the front of the wooden railing, and Lefty smiled and kept signing.

What to expect next week in Phoenix?

“I won’t know until Thursday,” he said.


 

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