US PGA Championship: Mickelson eyes history after setting clubhouse lead with glorious back nine

By Sports Desk May 21, 2021

Phil Mickelson played himself right into contention to become the oldest major champion in history after taking the clubhouse lead on day two of the US PGA Championship.

The 50-year-old looked in good shape in his first round on Thursday and he went a step further on Friday, finding himself top of the leaderboard having gone around the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island in 69.

It meant the American was on five under for the tournament, and he was leading by two shots shortly after he had finished for the day.

For much of Friday it looked as though Branden Grace was going to be in charge, the South African sitting pretty at six under for the tournament as he stepped up to the tee on the 17th.

But he finished his round with a double-bogey and a bogey as the breezy conditions took their toll on the two holes regarded as the toughest on the entire course, meaning he walked off after his final hole three under for the tournament.

Mickelson had similar issues on the same two holes earlier in the day after starting on the 10th, though the five-time major winner only dropped two shots across the 17th and 18th – it clearly was not enough of a wobble to really impact his mood.

The 2005 US PGA Championship winner has not had a single top-10 finish on the PGA Tour this season, but he has a great chance to end that here.

Opening up on his brilliant start at Kiawah Island, he said: "Physically I've felt as good as ever, I've been able to perform to play the shots, but I haven't been able to be as present or sharp mentally to visualise the shots I want to play.

"Meditation has been a big part of me being able to play the shots I want. It's gotten more difficult as I've got older to focus. Your mind is like a muscle, you have to exercise.

"That's what I've been doing, some days playing [as many as] 40-45 holes to make sure I can concentrate longer than just 18."

Mickelson carded five birdies after the turn, playing a huge role in putting him into contention to surpass Julius Boros as the oldest ever major winner at 48 in 1968.

Additionally, he is the first man aged 50 or over to be in top-five contention after 36 holes at a major since 2013.

His form here is made all the more remarkable by the fact he needed a special exemption to even qualify for next month's US Open, given his current ranking of 115.

"I'm having a lot of fun," he added. "To play well, to know I'm playing well heading into the weekend, to be in contention, to have a good opportunity, I'm having a blast. I'm excited for the weekend."

Ian Poulter looked to be putting himself into contention as well only to fall apart in the latter stages of his round, carding four bogeys in his final five holes – he was previously six under for the day.

Similarly, overnight leader Corey Conners' dropped down to two under for the tournament thanks to a difficult three-over second round.

Meanwhile, world number one Dustin Johnson will almost certainly not be returning on Saturday as he followed up a shocking first day with comparatively poor two over on Friday, leaving him on six over.

Jordan Spieth faces a nervy wait, he sits at four over following a second-round 75.

Related items

  • French Open: Nadal hardly breaks sweat in routine first-round at Roland Garros French Open: Nadal hardly breaks sweat in routine first-round at Roland Garros

    Rafael Nadal cruised through his first-round match against Jordan Thompson to make a strong start to his French Open campaign.

    Nadal is in the hunt for a record-extending 14th title at Roland Garros and he turned in a dominant display on Monday, winning 6-2 6-2 6-2 to progress with ease.

    It took Nadal a little over two hours to see off his opponent on Court Philippe-Chatrier and claim a 24th win of what is already proving to be a wonderful season.

    Nadal, seeded fifth, controlled the match throughout, breaking twice in the first set, which he sealed at the first time of asking.

    Thompson, the world number 82, conceded serve again at the start of the second set, and he was left hanging over the net in despair when Nadal turned defence into attack to deny the 28-year-old holding in his next service game.

    A deft drop shot saw Thompson recover but Nadal was clinical when chances to break came, and he took all three on offer in the second set, though the Australian also grasped his only chance to do so.

    Thompson salvaged the first three break points in set three but Nadal would not be denied, and he nosed into a 3-2 lead before breaking again to serve out for the match.

    A stray shot into the net from Thompson wrapped up the win as Nadal – one of only three players to have previously won the French Open without losing a single set – made an emphatic start.

    Data Slam: Nadal's incredible Roland Garros record

    Nadal is the only player to have won the same grand slam title 10+ times, and of the 109 matches he has now played at Roland Garros (excluding walkovers), the 35-year-old has lost just three – once against Robin Soderling (2008) and twice to Novak Djokovic (2015, 2021).

    Thompson, who made 29 unforced errors, seemed frustrated at his own performance, but he was taking on a true great of the game.

    WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
    Nadal – 27/21
    Thompson – 14/29

    ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
    Nadal – 1/0
    Thompson – 5/1

    BREAK POINTS WON
    Nadal – 7/11
    Thompson – 1/2

  • Haye and Munn-Barrow lead heading into Monday's final day of JGA National Amateur Championships Haye and Munn-Barrow lead heading into Monday's final day of JGA National Amateur Championships

    Oshae Haye and Jodi Munn-Barrow headed into Monday’s final day the leaders of the three-day Jamaica Golf Association's National Amateur Golf Championship being played at the Sandals Golf & Country Club in St. Ann.

  • Salah and Son more deserving of Player of the Season award than De Bruyne, says Thompson Salah and Son more deserving of Player of the Season award than De Bruyne, says Thompson

    Mohamed Salah and Son Heung-min were more deserving winners of the Premier League Player of the Season award than Kevin De Bruyne.

    That is according to Liverpool legend Phil Thompson, who also told Stats Perform that Erling Haaland will not necessarily make Manchester City a stronger side next season.

    City playmaker De Bruyne last week edged out Son, Salah, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Joao Cancelo, Jarrod Bowen, Bukayo Saka and James Ward-Prowse for the award.

    The Belgium international played a key part in City's successful title defence with 15 goals in 30 league appearances and a further eight assists.

    Remarkably, the 30-year-old's 15 goals came from an expected goals (xG) return of just 6.2, meaning he scored nine goals more than expected from the quality of his chances.

    However, his 23 direct goal involvements were fewer than Salah (36), Son (30) and Harry Kane (26) managed, albeit having played at least five games fewer than any of those.

    De Bruyne ranked above each of those players for chances created (87), though, and was behind only Alexander-Arnold (90) and Bruno Fernandes (89).

    But Thompson believes that Liverpool forward Salah and Tottenham's Son – who shared the Golden Boot with 23 goals – were more consistent than De Bruyne over the season.

    "I think it has to be Mo. I know the players have all given it to Kevin De Bruyne and he's a wonderful player," Thompson said. 

    "He's been wonderful for the last couple of months, but it's over a season and people get swayed by people who finish the season well. 

    "That is still in their minds when they're just putting their name on that form, or whether it's all done on phone now. 

    "But I would like to think over the whole year, and yes, Mo hasn't been rattling them in for the last six weeks or so, but overall, he has been.

    "They were talking around Christmas time that this is the best player in the world. He's not gone from being the best player in the world to playing second fiddle to De Bruyne. 

    "I'm sorry. Mo Salah was the player of the season and then probably Son has probably been more consistent over the whole nine months."

    City's title triumph was their fourth in the past five seasons and they have already moved to bolster their squad with the signing of Haaland from Borussia Dortmund.

    Haaland scored 86 goals in 89 games for Dortmund, a tally only bettered by Kylian Mbappe (90) and Robert Lewandowski (123) since January 18, 2020. 

    But, citing a rather mixed campaign for British record signing Jack Grealish, Thompson questioned whether Pep Guardiola will get the most out of Haaland.

    "He is a wonderful player, a great player," said Thompson, who won 17 major honours across 13 years playing for Liverpool, before a stint coaching the Reds.

    "Is he a missing piece for the jigsaw for them in the Champions League? They can still do things, but it might upset them a little bit. 

    "As you see with Grealish, who was £100million, has that worked? He's playing as a left-winger because it's the system that Pep likes. 

    "So you've got an out-and-out centre-forward who, yes, is full of energy, but he doesn't understand the press that City use. It'll be a change for them. That might change things." 

    Liverpool, who have seen Luis Diaz hit the ground running since joining from Porto in January, are themselves expected to be active in the upcoming transfer window.

    A deal for Fulham teenager Fabio Carvalho is already in place, but Thompson is not sure if signing a big name is really necessary in order to keep pace with champions City.

    "We have a set pattern, though I still hope that we'll sign a couple of players," he said.

    "I do believe that's what you have to do all the time to give that little bit of a buzz in the dressing room, to change things up on the pitch. And we have just come up short."

    The 92 points accrued by Liverpool this season is the joint-eighth most in Premier League history, yet it was not enough to pip City, who finished one point better off.

    Thompson added: "We have to find the magic ingredient to go that extra couple of points to win that league, but we don't have to do too much. 

    "Chelsea signed Romelu Lukaku and he played well those first half a dozen games. They were going to win the league the way the season started and look how that's unravelled.

    "It's not necessarily a gimme that it always works."

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.