CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Phil Mickelson provided a few more exciting moments Friday, only this time he did more than just keep his round together. This helped him move steadily up the leaderboard and into contention at the Wells Fargo Championship.
Mickelson saved par from the water for the third time in two days, and poured in six birdies for a 6-under 66. It matched his best score in 30 rounds at Quail Hollow and put him one shot behind Bill Haas among the early starters.
Haas finally made his first bogey when he missed the green to the right on the par-3 17th. Everything else was solid in his round of 70, which put him at 10-under 134 going into the weekend.
The second round was stopped for nearly 90 minutes in the morning because of thunderstorms that brought heavy rain for about 15 minutes, enough to soften the course for the late starters.
Haas and Mickelson played together in the final round at Torrey Pines earlier this year, and Haas struggled to a 75 playing before a large gallery in Mickelson’s hometown.
Haas grew up nearby in Greenville, S.C., and his father Jay as long been a member at Quail Hollow, so perhaps this time he might have the crowd behind him. Or maybe not.
“Luckily his name is very similar to my name, so whenever somebody says, ‘Let’s go Phil’ … I told him, that I pretend they’re saying, ‘Let’s go Bill’ out there,” Haas said. “He’s fun to play with. He’s supportive of a good shot. That’s all you want is a guy to be pulling for good shots for you and just have a good day of golf.”
So who has the biggest gallery in Carolina?
“He would,” Haas said. “He’s the man.”
Mickelson showed why he can be such a big attraction. No one knows what’s coming next. He could have been headed to a big number in the opening round after twice hitting into the water, but both times managed to make key putts for par. On Friday, he drove into the water on the par-4 14th, took a penalty shot and attacked a back pin, spinning the ball back to 4 feet.
That par followed back-to-back birdies and kept his momentum, and he really charged the gallery with a 30-foot birdie putt on the 18th green.
Mickelson made the turn and kept right on going, two-putting for birdie from 12 feet on the seventh for his final birdie.
“Today I was thinking of going low,” Mickelson said. “Yesterday I was just kind of fighting to keep the round in check. Yesterday was an important day because I was able to use my short game to keep myself in it and shoot something under par so that when I get a hot day like today where I’m making a few putts, making some birdies, it’s able to move me up the leaderboard rather than just get me back in the middle of the pack.”
Vijay Singh, ranked No. 54, had a 68 and was two shots behind at 8-under 136. This is an important week stretch for Singh, who has three weeks to get into the top 50 and avoid having to qualify for the U.S. Open. He has played 67 consecutive majors, the longest current streak.
“The way I’m striking the ball, I hope I strike it like this all week,” he said. “If I do this on the weekend, I have a good chance of finishing good here.”
Webb Simpson, coming off a playoff loss in New Orleans, and Brian Davis shot 67s and were at 7-under 137.
Among those who already had checked out of Quail Hollow was Dustin Johnson, who twice hit into the water on the 18th and took a quadruple-bogey 8. Johnson’s card of 79 included scores of 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8.
One round after taking advantage of the par 5s, Haas twice missed birdie putts from inside 10 feet. As Mickelson was closing in on his lead, Haas ran off consecutive birdies on the 14th and 15th holes, then took his lone bogey on the 17th. It’s a tough spot on the right side with a right pin, with players having to flop the ball onto the green, bump into the hill or putt it up a slope to the green. Haas chose the bump-and-run and came up short.
That was his lone blemish going into the weekend, though.
“It’s hard to shoot 64-64-64. The ball just doesn’t go in the hole that much,” Haas said. “I just basically wanted to try to hit it like I hit it yesterday and give myself chances, which I felt like I did today pretty well.”