Michelson surges with 66
- Tiger win? Not going to happen
Casey can’t get past No. 14
Graeme Who is leading?
- Tom Watson’s sweet 71
- Dustin Johnson rippin’ it
- Els is back to Big Easy
- David Duval has Open dream
- Pebble Beach: the ultimate!
Watch Saturday online
- No. 17 is mind-numbing
Phil the Thrill is back!
Mickelson, who is two parts master, one part train wreck, beat the field Friday for the first time in his career in a major, shooting an inspiring 66 at picturesque Pebble Beach to get within two shots of the lead of the national championship.
One day after he didn’t make a single birdie, he made six of them. It wasn’t enough to catch Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland, who set the early pace with a 3-under 68 to take a two-shot lead into the weekend.
Michelson is to golf what Turn 4 is to Daytonna: the constant unknown.
“On Friday, he gave the gallery what it wanted. He gave the U.S. Open what it needed,” as one golf analyst wrote.
“I’m in a good spot,” said Mickelson, whose five runner-up finishes is a U.S. Open record, and at all five it was cover-your-eyes crazy. “I don’t look at the leaderboard. I don’t look at other players. I look at par. If you can stay around par, you’re going to be in the tournament Sunday. That was kind of the goal.”
Mickelson finished with seven strong pars and was at 1-under 141.
Also two shots behind (-1):
Two-time U.S. Open champion Ernie Els (68)
18-year-old Ryo Ishikawa (71)
Dustin Johnson (70), who has won the past two times in the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
Friday belonged to Mickelson.
The Masters champion, who opened with a 75 on Thursday, ran off five birdies in the first eight holes. The blazing stretch ended on the par-4 eighth with a 5-iron off the tee that came perilously close to the edge of a 60-foot cliff, setting up a wedge he hit over the ocean to 15 feet and another big roar.
“I can’t wait for tomorrow’s round,” Mickelson said. “I love being on this golf course.”
As he finished out the ocean holes, a small crowd walking the beach wrote in the sand, “GO PHIL.”
Round Three: Moving Day
Tiger Woods: He’s seven shots back and has never been more than six shots back in any of his major victories. Although a pedestrian round of 1-over 72 left him seven back, he’s confident. Asked whether he liked his positions, Woods replied, “Absolutely.”
The world’s No. 1 player made his first birdie of the tournament by chipping in from about 20 yards short of the green on his second hole at No. 11. But he made only two more birdies, and they were not enough to offset the tee shot that caromed off a tree into grass so deep he took a penalty drop, or the plugged lie in the corner of the bunker on the 12th, or his failure to birdie the easiest par 5s.
Graeme McDowell: The leader showed steady nerves and the hint that he was having a really good time. The 30-year-old with five European Tour victories was among the early starters who teed off on the back nine first, when the greens were in the best shape and the air was cool and calm. McDowell holed a 35-foot birdie putt on the 14th — the par-5 hole that chewed up so many other players throughout the day — and pulled ahead with smart shots into the fourth hole and the par-5 sixth to build his lead.
“I’m really trying to put no expectations on myself this weekend because I know there’s a lot of great players out here … and this golf course is extremely difficult,” McDowell said.
Tom Watson: The 60-year-old crowd favorite and legitimate contenders, despite his seniority, worked the course with his sweet, easy tempo. At home at Pebble Beach, the site where he won his only U.S. Open in 1982, made par on the last hole to follow his 78 with a 71. Watson is the only player to compete in all five U.S. Opens palyed at Pebble Beach.
Ernie Els: Shooting 68 on Friday was a huge confidence booster for the Big Easy, a two-time U.S. Open champion who is two shots off the lead. He’s enjoyed a mini-renezience with two wins this year on the PGA tour. “I needed something in red figures to get me back in the tournament,” said Els, who’s last Open win came in 1997.
Ryo Ishikawa: The 18-year-old phenom;s 71 put him two shots behind the lead and he has a chance to become the youngest U.S. Open champion, a laurel that will fit nicely on the wall next to the high-school diploma he earned March. Ishikawa is the Tiger Woods of Japan, and he got a taste of U.S. Open idol worship while playing his first two rounds with Tom Watson, who’s following at Pebble is Tiger-like, as the roars echo off Stillwater Cove.
Dustin Johnson: Winner the past two times in the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, Johnson’s 70 was effortless, but TV commentators were starting to keep track of the many three-foot putts he was lipping out. Even so, he’s right at home in much firmer conditions.
Paul Casey: The Englishman took an 8 on the par-5 14th when a chip rolled back toward his feet — stopping near a divot he had smoothed over during the time it took the ball to roll up and down the slope. He was not penalized because it was deemed not his intention to improve his lie. Casey shot a 73 and was at even-par 142.
Lee Westwood: The No. 3 player in the world, who played with Els and Wood, scrambled for a 71 on a day he thought would be the easiest of the week. “I don’t think anybody’s going to run away with this,” Westwood said.
But this U.S. Open is only halfway over. Today is Moving Day, and the players will be fighting the cool afternoon weather on the California coast, where cool nerves will rule the day.