5 Things: Mickelson rises; Spieth contends; more

Phil Mickelson during Friday's second round of the 2013 Tour Championship at East Lake in Atlanta.

Phil Mickelson during Friday's second round of the 2013 Tour Championship at East Lake in Atlanta.

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— Henrik Stenson needed just 13 clubs to increase his lead. Tiger Woods required just two holes to spoil what should have been the blistering round he needed to get back into contention.

Indeed, they were the two dominant storylines from Friday’s second round of the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club – Stenson avoiding a penalty scare to push to 10 under and get four strokes in front of Adam Scott (69), while Woods was going from 2 under and somewhat in the hunt to 4 over and out of contention thanks to a double bogey at 14 and a triple bogey at 17.

But they weren’t the only happenings. Here are 5 Things to Know from second-round action:

• • •

1. SUMMER FUN, FALL SLUMBER: The high of his final-round heroics at Muirfield is not quite forgotten, but Phil Mickelson acknowledges that his recent form has left him shaking his head.

Five tournaments, just one top 10 (and that came courtesy of a blistering last-round charge at The Barclays), and three finishes outside the top 30. No, it was not exactly been a late summer to remember. But let the record show, Lefty thinks he’s turning the corner.

“Since the British Open, this is the best I’ve felt with my golf swing, the best I’ve felt with a putter,” Mickelson said after his 3-under 67 pushed him . . . well, if not into contention, at least into view.

Having started the day in 25th place after an opening 71, Mickelson hurled 13 players and will start the third round in a share of 12th, though he fell eight off the lead.

But, yes, he remembers very well the 2009 Tour Championship when he sat five behind Tiger Woods through 36 holes, shot 66-65 on the weekend and stormed to a three-stroke win.

“I’m not sure if I put myself too far back after the 27 holes I played poorly (he was 1 over for those 27; he played Friday's back nine in 3-under 32), but I should play well this weekend.”

Mickelson doesn’t have an answer for the stretch of pedestrian play post-Muirfield, but neither does he dwell on it. Ever the optimist, always resilient, he looks ahead and whereas rain is in the Saturday forecast, to Mickelson it’s a sunny outlook.

“I’m looking forward to the next 36 (holes),” he said. “I know I’m far back, but I think I’m going to make a pretty good run.”

Remember, you heard it from him first.

• • •

2. KID STUFF, AGAIN: Stenson hasn’t cornered the market on this “on a roll” stuff. Jordan Spieth is holding his own quite well, thank you.

The 20-year-old from Dallas backed up an opening 68 with a 67. At 5-under 135, he stands five off the lead and is a sizzling hot 48-under for his last 18 rounds on the PGA Tour. But being the cool, well-grounded and totally composed competitor that he is, Spieth knows the big picture in this FedEx Cup Super Bowl.

“I don’t expect to win the FedEx Cup at this point,” he said. “But I can make a run at the Tour Championship.”

Complete tee times and pairings for the third round of the Tour Championship.

Having entered the week 13th in the Cup standings, Spieth would have to win this tournament and get an awful lot of help – meaning that a slew of players ahead of him in the standings would have to finish poorly at East Lake. “Henrik’s obviously tearing it up, so we have some work to do,” Spieth said.

Now just making it into the FedEx Cup playoffs, then just making it to Atlanta, then making it into the final pairing alongside Stenson and Scott for Round 3 would seem to add up to enough of a fairy-tale story for a kid who started the 2013 season without any status on Tour. But every time you think Spieth has gone as far as the story can take him, he goes one better.

So maybe, just maybe, winning the tournament and somehow taking the $10 million bonus is not out of the question.

• • •

3. NO JOY FOR THEM: When you glance at the top names on the leaderboard – Stenson with 66, Scott 69, Spieth 67, Justin Rose and Dustin Johnson 68 – one might assume a good time was had by all.

Nothing could be further than the truth.

Friday’s second round was actually the end of the tournament challenge, for all intents and purposes, for a number of players. Charl Schwartzel made three double-bogeys, shot 79, and plunged into last place at 7-over 147, while Boo Weekley and Brandt Snedeker shot 75. For Snedeker, who stands tied for 26th at 4 over, it effectively ends any hope of defending his FedEx Cup title.

Matt Kuchar (74 – 143, 25th) and Woods (71 – 144, T-26) entered the week in the standings' top five, meaning all they had to do was win the tournament to take the Cup title, but say goodbye to that. Kuchar bogeyed three of his final four holes; Woods played the last five holes in 6 over.

• • •

4. SALVAGE JOB? He’s been bypassed for the Presidents Cup. He hasn’t won since January. He hardly made any noise at the majors or in the first three FEC playoff events. But all is not lost. The season still has 36 holes left and Dustin Johnson has quietly put himself in position to steal a little last-minute thunder.

Posting one of two bogey-free rounds Friday (the other was by Zach Johnson; talk about your Johnson & Johnson routine), Dustin Johnson shot 68 and at 4-under 136 is tied for fourth. True, he stands six off the lead, but there was a confidence in his voice as he talked.

“I’m driving it well,” Johnson said, “and when I did miss the fairway, I was just barely off. Overall, I was pretty solid.”

Johnson barely snuck into the Tour Championship, so he’s not a threat to win the FEC title. But he agreed that a hot weekend and a win at East Lake would go a long way toward taking the sting out of a season that has not pleased him.

• • •

5. SHORT SHOTS: With the threat of rain hovering at about 80 percent, officials have pushed up tee times for Saturday’s third round. Players will go out in threesomes from the first tee between 7:30-9 a.m. Apparently, players can count on getting wet, because rain is scheduled to begin falling by late morning and get progressively heavier. The forecast for Sunday is for clearing, with temperatures in the 70s. . . . Roberto Castro made the first eagle of the tournament, rolling in a 60-foot putt at the par-5 ninth. . . . The field average was level-par 70.00 for the 30 players, with 105 birdies and that one eagle. . . . The par-4 fifth hole ranked toughest, a field average of 4.367, and it did not yield a birdie. . . . The par-3 sixth was a brute, too, with six players – Brendon De Jonge, Kevin Streelman, Luke Donald, Billy Horschel, Graham DeLaet, and Schwartzel – hitting tee shots into the water and making double-bogey. . . . Woods made the day’s only triple-bogey, thanks to hitting a tee shot into the water at the par-4 17th. . . . Just one birdie was made at the par-4 11th (Zach Johnson) and at the par-3 18th (Hunter Mahan).

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