Mickelson leads; Woods barely makes cut

Updated: August 12, 2005, 9:21 PM ET
Associated Press

SPRINGFIELD, N.J. -- The roars came early for Phil Mickelson, who quickly separated himself from the pack Friday at the PGA Championship and matched his largest lead in a major.

They were just as loud in the steamy afternoon for Tiger Woods, for an entirely different reason.

Mickelson's lowest PGA Championship rounds
Year, round Score Finish
'05 2nd round 65 ?
'03 1st round 66 T-23
'01 3rd round 66 2nd
'01 2nd round 66 2nd
'01 1st round 66 2nd

He was simply trying to make the cut.

Both supplied plenty of dramatic moments at Baltusrol in a role reversal for golf's two matinee idols.

Mickelson was mostly steady, sometimes spectacular and surprisingly patient as he shot out to 31 on the back nine and finished with a 5-under 65 to take a three-shot lead over Jerry Kelly. It was his largest lead at a major since he was up by three shots over Justin Leonard after two rounds in the '96 PGA Championship.

"There's a lot of golf left, but I'm entering the final two rounds with a lot more confidence than I've had in a while," said Mickelson, who was at 8-under 132.

Woods is entering the final two rounds -- and that's all he has going for him.

He was three shots over the cut line with eight holes to play until three birdies in five holes seemingly left him safe. But when he tried to grab a slice of history, he almost made the wrong kind.

Woods went for the green on the 650-yard 17th hole -- reached only two other times at Baltusrol -- only to see his 3-wood carom off the side of the green, across the bunker and against the lip. He had no choice to turn his back to the flag and scoot a chip through the sand and into the grass, but he couldn't save par.

His only hope of making the cut was a birdie on the par-5 18th, and he delivered a booming drive under pressure that left him a 7-iron to the green. A two-putt birdie gave him a 69 to make the cut on the number at 4-over 144.

Phil Mickelson
Mickelson's topsy-turvy 65 included only seven pars.

"I got through somehow," he said. "I either messed up, or things didn't quite go my way. I did as best I could."

But it wasn't long before reality set in.

Woods was 12 shots behind Mickelson, whose name atop the leaderboard suddently looks as daunting as ever. Even the guys with a realistic chance have their work cut out for them.

Kelly holed a bunker shot on his final hole, the par-3 ninth, for a 65 that put him at 135 and in the final pairing Saturday with Mickelson. Davis Love III (68), Lee Westwood (68) and Rory Sabbatini (69) were another shot behind, while defending champion Vijay Singh shot 67 and was five back.

Kelly hasn't been in contention at any tournament since the Bob Hope Classic in late January, but the former college hockey player isn't one to shrivel amid a pro-Mickelson gallery often found in the New York area.

"That's exactly what I love. Just to be in that theater is going to be fun," he said.

Hardly anyone is having more fun than Mickelson -- except the fans watching him. The first big cheer of the second round came early Friday when his name was announced on the 10th tee. It reached near hysteria when Mickelson blasted out of a fairway bunker to 3 feet on the 13th hole and hit out of the rough on the 14th to 12 feet for another birdie that sent him on his way.

When he made an 18-foot eagle on the 18th, his lead already was at four shots and climbing.

Mickelson is relying almost exclusively on a controlled cut off the tee, something he did last year when he won the Masters and came within five shots of a chance to capture all the majors. But he hasn't come close this year, raising questions why he didn't play this way earlier in the major championship season.

"That's probably a question I should answer later, after the week is over," Mickelson said. "Right now, I just want to hit that cut shot, which I think is most effective here."

Mickelson wasn't perfect. He followed his eagle on the 18th by chopping it around in the ankle-high rough for a double bogey on No. 1. But for every mistake came a recovery, helped along by another long birdie putt. This one was a 40-footer on the third hole, and he added a 25-footer for birdie on the eighth.

"Everybody is going to make mistakes, but sometimes it's hard to forget about it and let it go," Mickelson said. "The thing that I was most pleased with was the way I was able to let go of some of the bad shots and forget about it and move on."

That allowed him to move up, making this the fifth time he has held a lead in a major since the start of last year.

The big test comes Saturday, especially with Baltusrol drying out after two steamy days under the sun. Even with workers hosing down the greens in the afternoon, the ball began to take hard hops into the rough, and fairways allowed more roll than they have all week.

"I don't think anybody is really worried about the lead yet," Love said. "This golf course will bite you if you don't pay attention to what you're doing, so keep playing one shot at a time."

Mickelson had said he expected to see Woods' name on the leaderboard by Sunday, but the Masters and British Open champion was fortunate to still have his name on his parking space.

Despite a birdie on the opening hole, Woods fell apart with a collection of errors -- a three-putt from 7 feet on the second hole, a tee shot behind a tree on the third, and a tee shot into the water on the par-3 fourth, where he had to make a 12-footer to escape with bogey.

But high drama came late in the afternoon on the 17th hole, where only John Daly in the 1993 U.S. Open and Billy Farrell in the 1967 U.S. Open have reached in two. The hole has been expanded to 650 yards this year, and no one was expected to even try to reach the green in two.

Woods had 296 yards to the hole with a breeze slightly helping. He wasn't thinking about the cut, but trying to get closer to the lead, so he pulled 3-wood and gave it a whack. It looked good for most of its journey, but turned just enough left to bounce hard off the side of the green and leave him no shot.

A sure birdie turned into bogey and set the stage for the 18th, when his caddie told him he needed a birdie. Woods delivered with two good shots and the only routine birdie he made all day. But considering his largest 36-hole comeback in a major is six shots, at this year's Masters, making the cut might be his consolation prize.


Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press

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