Mickelson still the man to catch

Fri, Feb 1, 2013, 00:00

Golf:Phil Mickelson was unable to carry the momentum of Thursday’s magical 60 into the early stages of his second round at the Phoenix Open in Arizona. But the American remained at the head of proceedings midway through his round, picking up two shots to open a slender advantage over clubhouse leader Keegan Bradley.

Mickelson, a winner at Scottsdale the last time he shot 60 in 2005, carded six straight pars before finally opening his account with birdies at the seventh and ninth holes to lead Bradley by one. On another low scoring morning, it was the former US PGA champion who made the biggest move as a sparkling round of 63, including four birdies on the trot from the fifth to the eighth holes, propelled him through the field.

After the early morning desert frost cleared, the low scoring saw Padraig Harrington, second at the start of the day on seven under, get swallowed up by the chasing pack and by the time he got his round underway shortly after midday he was back in a tie for 15th. A birdie at the par 5 third hole got the Dubliner moving in the right direction and Harrington’s excellent approach at the sixth would yield another birdie.

A booming drive at the ninth just shy of 350 yards should have set up another opportunity, but a misjudged approach dropped short into the greenside bunker. The three-time major champion was unable to get it up-and-down from the trap and fell back to eight under with nine to play.

Bradley had mixed seven birdies with an eagle at the 15th and a lone bogey on the Stadium Course at the TPC Scottsdale to finish a stroke in front of Argentina's Angel Cabrera (65). And having been mentored by PGA Tour veteran Mickelson since his rookie season on the US circuit in 2011, Bradley felt inspired by his good friend's red-hot start to the week.

"I spoke to him," Bradley, who won all three matches he played with Mickelson last year in his debut at the Ryder Cup, said after his round. "I watched the putt on the last hole and found myself cheering for him, just like I did at the Ryder Cup. He gets me excited to play, so I'm really happy to put a low one (score) up there and hopefully see him at the weekend.

"I feel so good because I've been playing really well and not getting much out of it. I just hope that my partner Phil cannot go too low on me today," he added with a broad grin.

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