Errant Mickelson somehow remains in contention

Phil Mickelson fired an even-par 71 on Saturday and is 8 under for the tournament.

NORTON, Mass. – On Patriot Golf Day weekend, Phil Mickelson gave us his best version of Army golf. He drove left, then right, then left in the Deutsche Bank Championship second round Saturday. He was so wild that he scattered galleries on five of his first six full swings on the back nine.

His ball found water hazards, yellow cable lines, rough and trees far off line. Gallery marshals moved more rope than a rodeo cowboy. You watched spectators jump out of the way and run for cover and hoped Mickelson’s liability insurance was paid up. It was like watching Gerald Ford play at the Bob Hope.

“It’s embarrassing to hit shots like that and to have a bunch of people out there (when) playing with Tiger (Woods) and having every shot exposed on TV,” Mickelson said. “You know, it’s embarrassing. But we all have our moments like that and you just have to deal with it.”

This is the same man who shot an 8-under, co-leading 63 the day before at TPC Boston. But that’s Phil the Thrill, good and bad. Either way you can’t take your eyes off him. Parents take their kids to magic shows and amusement parks to see stuff like that.

“I was playing terrible,” Mickelson understated. “It happens, where you kind of lose it a little bit. ... Mentally I just kind of lost it for a few holes.”

Thanks to a late swing adjustment, some spectacular scrambling and a birdie-birdie finish, Mickelson somehow shot 71. That doesn’t sound like much on a day that yielded a pair of 63s, a 64 and four 65s. But it is a candidate for the most interesting 71 in golf history. For certain he pulled off a rarity in making a 71 far more compelling than his 63.

“It was pretty impressive to see the up-and-downs he made throughout that stretch,” playing competitor Woods said.

The closing kick also put a relieved Lefty within striking distance midway, five strokes behind leader Sergio Garcia. Happily he went from off the planet to in the hunt. He went from hopeless to hopeful, from clueless to “excited.”

“That was almost me at my best because I could have easily shot myself right out of the tournament when I just kind of lost it there for a few holes,” he said. “But instead I was able to find it there at the end. I feel like I now know what I want to do with my golf swing and I’m putting unbelievable. If I’m able to play tomorrow the way I believe I’m going to, I’m going to look back on that nine-, 10-hole stretch as being the key to the entire tournament.”

In a sense, the round capsulized Mickelson’s career–up, then down, then up, the latter largely because up-and-downs. After No. 7, he didn’t hit a fairway until the 14th, and then hit four in a row. On Nos. 8-14, he hit but one green in regulation. He made no birdies between the fourth and 17th, then made two in a row.

“I fought hard to hang in there,” he said.

His adventure started at the ninth, where block-sliced a drive onto yellow cable a day after snap-hooking into trouble. This time he punched out to rough, saved par from 10 feet and high-fived fans after walked off the green.

He made a remarkable bogey at the 10th after scattering fans and finding a hazard on the right. After dropping, he flew the green, flopped on and holed a 15-footer. He was even more impressive at the par-3 11th, where he hooked an iron shot far right and hit a high, full-swing flop shot from 35 yards that spun back at least 10 feet and came to rest 2 feet from the hole.

“He pulled it off,” Woods said. “That’s what he does.”

Woods and Adam Scott could only laugh after Mickelson somehow delivered from a so-so lie and poor angle.

“It came off perfect,” Mickelson said. “It’s not a very high-percentage shot.”

Mickelson parred the 12th after shaking up the gallery in the left rough, saved par after driving into spectators on the right at 13, bogeyed 14 after following a poor chip with a good one, and double-bogeyed the par-3 16th after finding water left. He then closed with birdies from 8 and 3 feet.

Mickelson said he made a slight swing adjustment on the last few holes. It might have saved his week.

“I was just hanging back and flipping it and hanging back and wiping it with a slice,” he said. “I started to move forward on it, release the club and hit shots, you know, the way you’re supposed to.”

Yes, we know. We do remember Friday, though for most of Saturday it appeared he hadn’t.

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