Mickelson Clings to 1-Shot Lead at Northern Trust Open

It wasn’t the tidiest round of golf that he’s played the last few rounds, but Riviera has a way of testing ones’ confidence unlike any other layout that the players have played thus far this season. Phil Mickelson, the overnight leader, came into the 2nd round at the Northern Trust Open ready to continue the confident swagger that has seemingly changed the outlook of his season. His confidence would be tested on Friday, however.

Chris Condon / PGA Tour

Mickelson began his 2nd round on the short, drivable par4 10th and the challenge began no sooner than his opening tee shot. From the right green-side bunker, Lefty would miss the narrow swath of green and then find the rear green-side bunker. From there he left himself a lengthy par putt from 14 feet, which he made, but the tone was set for the remainder of the round. His iron play was inconsistent at best, missing every other green from comfortable yardages on his approaches, but luckily his short game was on. He picked up his first birdie of the day on the par3 16th by virtue of a chip-in from off the green, but gave it back 2 holes later by taking bogey on the par4 18th. Mickelson made the turn at level par. His back-nine started in encouraging fashion, nearly making eagle on the par5 1st and tapping in for his 2nd birdie of the round. He would continue struggling with his iron play, however, and continued having to rely on his wedges and putter to keep the round from going south. His 2nd bogey on the round came at the par4 7th, taking him back to even par on the day, but that would quickly change on the par4 8th. From 110 yards, Mickelson dialed-in a wedge and heard the gallery erupt as it found the bottom of the hole for a remarkable eagle. And just like that – he was 2-under on the day, 7-under for the tournament. Unfortunately the good fortune would be partially given back by a bogey on his final hole of the round, but Mickelson wasn’t overly displeased with his 1-under 70 on Friday. “I got a lot more out of it, I think. I thought there were some low scores out there. I wanted to score low. I played well enough, but I didn’t give myself chances to really go much lower, and I ended up probably getting a pretty good score for the way I played. ” Mickelson goes into the weekend with a 1-shot lead @ 6-under for the event.

The lowest rounds on Friday at Riviera were a pair of 65′s, and Pat Perez was the owner of one of them. Perez came into his 2nd round 6 shots back of the lead after opening with a 1-over 72 on Thursday, but it was a completely different day weather-wise. Pat was one of the unfortunate ones who had to brave the cold morning temps and the high winds Thursday morning, and all things considered – his opening 1-over 72 was really a very respectable score. So needless to say, Perez was pleased with the calmer conditions and warmer weather going into Friday’s 2nd round. He began his day with a birdie on the par5 1st, then carded back-to-back birdies on holes 5 & 6, making the turn at 3-under. He continued his solid putting, finding birdies on 2 of the first 4 holes on the back, and closed the round out with an impressive approach to 11 feet on the tough par4 18th, making the putt to get his 6th birdie on the day. He’s 5-under for the tournament, 1 shot back of Mickelson heading into the weekend. Afterward, Perez talked about how his putting has been the difference this year, after switching to the belly putter last fall. “Yeah. I haven’t missed a cut yet. I’ve made all six on the West Coast. I had a lot of good rounds. I’ve played well. I’m 29th in the FedEx, so I’ve played pretty well. I’ve putted great. Ever since changing to the belly putter everything has changed for me. Yeah, I thought if I could just hit it somewhat decent, if I could give myself some looks with that putter, I’d make some.” What about being paired with Mickelson on Saturday? “Yeah. I mean, I’m not playing him. You know, obviously he’s playing well, and I’m going to have to play awful well to beat him this weekend. I’m not worried about him. It’ll be fun to play with him, but you know, I know that I have to play well out there to beat everybody else as well.” Pat’s last (and only) win on Tour came back in 2009 at the Bob Hope Classic, and his best finish at the Northern Trust Open came back in 2007, where he finished 8th.

Notables

Jarrod Lyle and Jimmy Walker had solid rounds on Friday of 6-under 65 and 5-under 66 respectively, joining Matt Kuchar, Carl Pettersson, and Jonathan Byrd at 4-under and T4.

Spencer Levin, Bubba Watson, and Marc Leishman round out the top-10 at the midway point, 3-under for the event and T8.

After opening up with a good opening round of 4-under 67 on Thursday, J.B. Holmes found Riviera a little more difficult on Friday, shooting 2-over 73. At 2-under par for the event, he joins quite the impressive logjam of players who are also going into the weekend at 2-under par and T11: Bill Haas, Keegan Bradley, Stewart Cink, Zach Johnson, J.J. Killeen, Kevin Chappel, K.J. Choi, Justin Rose, and Retief Goosen.

For a full recap of Friday’s action at the Northern Trust Open, click HERE.

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