Pebble Beach, Calif. With each birdie, Phil Mickelson put some life into an overcast day at Pebble Beach and gave himself another chance finally to take something more than silver home from a U.S. Open.
One day after he didn’t make a single birdie, Mickelson made six of them Friday. It wasn’t enough to catch Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland, who set the early pace with a 3-under 68 to take a two-shot lead into the weekend, but all that mattered to Mickelson was getting back to even par.
With five birdies in a seven-hole stretch early in his round, Mickelson shot a tournament-best 66 and joined a shrinking group of five players who have beaten par over two days at Pebble Beach.
McDowell was at 3-under 139, and he made even more friends with a bogey on the final hole that assured 60-year-old Tom Watson of two more rounds in what likely will be his final U.S. Open.
Mickelson was joined at 1-under 141 by two-time U.S. Open champion Ernie Els (68), 18-year-old Ryo Ishikawa (71) and Dustin Johnson (70), who has won the last two times in the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and looks right at home in much firmer conditions.
The names weren’t important to Mickelson. Only the numbers.
“I’m in a good spot,” said Mickelson, whose five runner-up finishes is a U.S. Open record. “I don’t look at the leaderboard. I don’t look at other players. I look at par. If you can stay around par, you’re going to be in the tournament Sunday. That was kind of the goal.”
The Masters champion opened with a 75 Thursday.