Mickelson's game falters on Sawgrass' front nine

Phil Mickelson during Round 2 of The Players Championship.

Phil Mickelson during Round 2 of The Players Championship.

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Phil Mickelson’s ball lay less than a foot behind a fairway bunker’s lip at TPC Sawgrass’ fourth hole on Friday. He addressed the ball while the group ahead was still on the green, making it look like he was ready to lay up.

No chance. Mickelson often attempts shots other players don’t dare try, and this was no different. He hit his shot out of the bunker and over the creek that fronts the green, leaving himself a 10-foot birdie putt. It would’ve been the type of improbable birdie that makes a special round possible.

Mickelson missed the putt, settling for a disappointing par, then bogeyed three of his final four holes Friday to shoot 71. His 31 on TPC Sawgrass’ back nine (his front) was all but erased after he took 40 strokes to tour his second nine.

“I stopped hitting fairways and really just kind of lost the momentum,” said Mickelson, the 2007 Players champion. “I really had a good round going and I just didn’t finish it off.”

Mickelson was 6 under par for the tournament, and just a few shots from the lead, when he made the turn Friday. He hit just two fairways and four greens on his final nine holes Friday. Mickelson ended the day closer to the cut line than contention. He hasn’t finished better than 17th in three appearances at TPC Sawgrass since his victory.

“I thought I could go shoot a few under on the front and really have a good day,” Mickelson said. “And I just really let a good round go. It’s disappointing.”

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