Mickelson lets short shots 'slide by' him

Updated: March 5, 2004, 9:20 PM ET
Associated Press

MIAMI -- Retief Goosen and Phil Mickelson came to Doral as the two highest ranked players in the field. After two windy rounds on the beefed-up Blue Monster, they're 1-2 on the leaderboard, too.

Retief Goosen
Retief Goosen made the ball bounce his way for most of Friday's second round.

Goosen shot a 4-under 68 in the second round of the Ford Championship on Friday, moving him to 9-under 135 and one shot ahead of Mickelson, Craig Parry and Todd Hamilton.

Goosen and Mickelson are seventh and eighth, respectively, in the world rankings. And they've played like it. The course conditions also might have helped.

"I think the top players feel like they would rather have the tougher golf course and tougher conditions and not being just mainly a putting contest out there" Goosen said. "I prefer it when you have to grind it out there a little bit."

The South African had six birdies and two bogeys in the second round. He was 10 under before giving a stroke back on the par-4 No. 7, his 16th hole of the round.

Mickelson may have played even better, but missed at least four "good" birdie opportunities on the front nine. He also bogeyed No. 18 for the second consecutive day to finish with a 69.

The 467-yard hole finishing hole played into a strong wind both days. Tournament officials moved the tees closer Friday and put the pin on the front edge of the green, but the finishing hole still yielded just 12 birdies. It allowed six in the opening round.

The Blue Monster's signature hole was lengthened by 24 yards last year, and the tee box were relocated to bring the water more into play.

In the second round, there were 47 bogeys, 15 double bogeys and two "others" on the hole that could conceivably determine the winner at the first stop on the PGA Tour's Florida Swing.

Mickelson found the water off the tee in the opening round. He missed the green with his second shot Friday, then chipped past the pin and two-putted from there.

"I didn't mind making 5 on the hole," Mickelson said. "It doesn't bother me. It doesn't feel like bogey is a bad thing on that hole."

Goosen made par each day on No. 18, which is playing tougher than any hole on the tour this year. The hole and steady wind helped establish the highest cut on tour this season at 1-over 145. Still, 25 players are within five shots of the lead.

"A lot of the top guys seem to have played well and come to the top," Mickelson said. "But there's a great bunching of guys from 4- or 5-under par that are only four of five shots back. You go out tomorrow and shoot 3-, 4-, 5-under par on the front nine, next thing you know you're on top of the leaderboard."

Mickelson being near the top of the leaderboard shouldn't be much of a surprise. After all, he has been a threat to win every time he has played.

He won the Bob Hope Classic in a playoff, was in the final group in Phoenix, finished third at Pebble Beach, was one shot out of the playoff at Torrey Pines, and advanced to the quarterfinals in the Match Play Championship.

"He's obviously driving the ball a lot better this year," Goosen said. "I think he's cut back a little bit on his length. I think last year he got into a mind-set of distance and just trying to see how far he can hit it."

Mickelson already has earned more money in five events this year than he won in 23 last year. Winning at Doral would make the season even better.

"I played very well on the West Coast. I had five great opportunities to win and only won once," Mickelson said. "Now is the time to start getting out of a top-10 type frame or getting into contention and trying to take advantage of the opportunities now."

^Divots:@ Parry shot a 65, and Hamilton had a 68. ... No. 18 had a scoring average of 4.5 in the second round, down from 4.74 a day earlier. The toughest hole on tour so far this season was No. 12 at Torrey Pines South (4.464). ... Goosen has shot par or better in his last 27 rounds on the PGA Tour. ... First-round leader Chris Smith shot a 76 Friday to drop to 3-under 141. ... Arjun Atwal made a strong comeback to make the cut. He was 7 over after his first nine holes Thursday, but rebounded to finish the second round 1 over.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press