Mickelson tied for US Open lead

dscott@charlotteobserver.comJune 14, 2013 

— Phil Mickelson’s flair for the dramatic – this time a birdie putt in the dying light on the 18th hole of Merion Golf Club – helped him into a tie for the lead Friday at the U.S. Open.

But the second-round lead Mickelson shares in the clubhouse with Billy Horschel – they’re both at 1-under par – might not be there by the time they tee off Saturday afternoon, with several players within two strokes of the lead unable to finish their rounds before darkness fell Friday.

Two of them – Ian Poulter and amateur Cheng-Tsung Pan of Chinese Taipei – are part of five-player pack along with Luke Donald, Steve Stricker and Justin Rose that is tied for third at even par.

Merion, still playing soft after days of rain, hasn’t budged at all against par, with Mickelson and Horschel the only players in red numbers.

Five more are at 1-over: John Senden and Nicolas Colsaerts, who both finished their second rounds, Charley Hoffman, Jerry Kelly and amateur Michael Kim. Matthew Goggin is at 2-over, tied for 13th with Charl Schwartzel and Hunter Mahan, both of whom will finish their second rounds Saturday.

Round two will resume at 7:15 a.m. Saturday.

“I don’t see how anybody is going to separate themselves much from the field, either Saturday or Sunday,” said Mickelson, who is chasing his first U.S. Open title after a record five second-place finishes.

Mickelson had sole possession of the lead at 3-under after the first round, which wasn’t completed until Friday morning due to two rain delays on Thursday. With an early tee time Thursday, but sleep deprived after flying overnight from California, where he had watched his daughter graduate from eighth grade Wednesday, Mickelson had the advantage of being able to complete his first round in one day.

After a bogey on No. 1, Mickelson settled in with 10 consecutive pars that kept him on top of the leader board. Bogeys on Nos. 12 and 13 dropped him out of the lead, but he got it back with a long birdie putt at 18 – his only one of the day. The putt came at around 8:35 p.m., just minutes after the horn sounded to halt play due to darkness.

“The way I’m hitting the ball, even how I’m putting, although I didn’t show it, makes me really excited about the weekend,” Mickelson said.

Joining him in that tie for first is Horschel, who is playing in his first U.S. Open and won his first career PGA tournament earlier this year at the Zurich Classic in New Orleans. Horschel’s 3-under 67 was the best round of the day and included four birdies.

His day started with 11 holes to conclude his first round, but that was fine with him.

“I like it better where I could (finish) one round and go right into the next round,” said Horschel, 26. “I feel better when I play more and more holes. I feel more comfortable and get better rhythm.”

Merion, with its gristly rough and narrow fairways, isn’t allowing much comfort for anyone. And although the course is drying after all the rain from last week and earlier this week, players still expect it to stay relatively soft through the weekend.

“There were people talking about 62s and 63s at the start of the week and I never saw that all,” said Rory McIlroy, who is at 3-over par after a second-round 70.

Tiger Woods, who hasn’t won a major since 2008, finished his first round Friday morning at 3 over and managed an even-par 70 in the afternoon. He’s tied with McIlroy and five others for 13th and isn’t sure how the course will play over the weekend.

“I don’t know how much this golf course is going to dry out,” Woods said. “If it dries out a little bit more ... I don’t know if they’re going to set up the pins as difficult as they have.”

Scott: 704-358-5889

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