CHASKA, Minn. (AP) — Phil Mickelson walked off the wind-blown Hazeltine course, unsure whether he would be back for the weekend.
He barely made the cut, but after shooting a second straight 2-over 74 on Friday in the second round of the PGA Championship, Mickelson was 4 over for the tournament. At mid-day, the second-ranked player in the world was in real trouble of heading home early. It took a 19-way tie for 62nd place to keep him in it.
“I’m not going to beat many people putting the way I am,” said Mickelson, who decided after the first round to do something he hadn’t done in a long time: go to the practice green and work on his shoddy short game.
The extra time didn’t pay off, though Mickelson insisted he felt better about his putter than the day before.
Beginning on the back nine, he shot into the wind on No. 12 and made birdie. Two holes later, however, he finished with a bogey because of another missed putt.
He amended a double bogey on No. 5 with an eagle on the par-5 seventh hole and had an opportunity to pick up another stroke with a 15-footer on No. 8. It sailed long, and Mickelson waved his hands as if to say, “Come on!”
In all, he needed 77 putts for 36 holes.
“I’ve got to get this thing turned around,” Mickelson said.
Receiving plenty of support from the galleries, one guy yelled, “Keep your head up, Phil!” after he failed to putt for par and made the turn toward the front nine. If it was any consolation, Mickelson’s group didn’t fare much better than he did.
David Toms followed his first-round 69 with a 75, a high score also attributable to some struggles on the greens.
“You don’t see a lot of balls that close to the hole, it seems like,” Toms said, assessing the course. “At least not in our group. So then if you’re not making your 25- and 30-footers, or a couple of those, it’s hard to make birdies.”
The last time Mickelson missed the cut in a major was the 2007 British Open, a tournament he skipped this summer to be with his wife and mother, both of whom were recently diagnosed with breast cancer.
Since tying for second place at the U.S. Open in June, Mickelson played only last week’s Bridgestone Invitational in Ohio before this. He tied for 58th place at Firestone Country Club.
The assumption is that Mickelson’s increased family focus and decreased time on the course has affected his game, but he said that his putting problems were to blame.
“I think the struggling on the greens is carrying over a little bit into, maybe, my focus on some other shots,” Mickelson said. “I don’t feel I’m hitting it bad, but I’m hitting some bad shots.”
Mickelson sent tee shots into the rough, the sand and the gallery over the first two rounds. On Friday, he hit only six of a possible 14 fairways.
“I don’t feel like I’m striking it horrendously,” he said. “It’s just I’m having trouble scoring right now.”
This wasn’t Mickelson’s worst PGA Championship performance; he shot a 78 in the third round in 2002. This is an event, though, that he won four years ago and took second at in 2001. He hasn’t missed the cut in the season’s last major since 1995, when he was 25.
Perhaps it’s because of deepened perspective, the process at home now his priority, but Mickelson didn’t sound so down at the end of his rough round. As he crossed the catwalk from the course to the scoring trailer, a few fans yelled encouragement while he flashed a smile during a chat with his caddie.
Mickelson certainly didn’t show the same resigned look he had after his missed chance at the U.S. Open. Asked about his plans for the remainder of the season, he declined to speculate other than to confirm his participation at The Barclays in New Jersey later this month.
“I don’t want to look too far down the road for at least another year, because we’re day to day with everything,” Mickelson said, referring to the health of his wife. “Right now things are OK, and I’m planning on playing Barclays and we’ll see where I go from there.”