Phil Mickelson Claws Way Into Contention At Crooked Stick

Phil Mickelson has been known to tinker a bit with his clubs but, with four straight birdies on his front nine and two more more after the turn in Saturday’s second round at the BMW Championship, it would appear that The Claw will remain in Lefty’s repertoire for some time.

Mickelson started the day something of an afterthought -- what with the Tiger Woods-Rory McIlroy tandem capturing the golf world’s imagination, and 49-year-old Vijay Singh putting on a show with opening rounds of 7-under 65 and 66 to take the 36-hole lead. By the time he canned his seventh birdie of the day on No. 13, Mickelson had jumped into a share of the lead, thanks to new-found confidence with his putter.

“I have a lot less stress,” Mickelson told reporters after posting a 3-under 69 on Friday. “The ball starts on line and a lot softer. The face is square throughout the entire stroke. There's no opening or closing, so consequently I hit them a lot on line.”

Mickelson, who has employed two drivers in the same round and toyed with blades, mallets and even had a brief flirtation with the belly putter last year at about this time, began experimenting with the unconventional grip on his flat stick after his putting bottomed out at The Barclays two weeks ago. The clamp, which causes almost as much agita among traditionalists as long putters, has been a mainstay among PGA Tour golfers seeking remedies to the yips for some time.

Mickelson used the setup to play his way back into contention at last week’s Deutsche Bank Championship, where he finished in a tie for fourth, his best outcome since sharing third place at the Masters in April. Despite his complaints about his short game, Mickelson began the week ranked sixth in the strokes gained-putting category, a statistic he matched at TPC Boston.

The 40-time tour winner contended on Friday that he needed “a little better touch” to can the eight- to 15-footers. With birdies on the fourth, those four in a row as he made the turn, another on the 12th, and a bogey save on 14 after some wayward shots, it would seem he had found what was missing.

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