PGA Championship: Oak Hill separating best from the also-rans, says Phil Mickelson

Sam Greenwood

A late-night practice session with Butch Harmon did not yield the low score Phil Mickelson was looking for, but he’ll likely be around for the weekend.

Phil Mickelson was so shocked by his sloppy opening round at Oak Hill on Thursday that he made an emergency call to swing coach Butch Harmon. The latter eventually joined Lefty for some late-night work on the practice range.

Friday's results were not much better for the free-wheeling southpaw as he carded a second straight 1-over 71, but a clutch par save on the ninth hole -- his 18th -- likely assured the British Open champ of a Saturday tee time.

With two bogeys and a birdie on his second-round scorecard, Mickelson was able to avoid the big blowups that scuttled his round a day earlier. But he’ll enter the weekend -- assuming the projected cut line remains at 2-over -- at least nine strokes off the pace with playing partner Adam Scott the early clubhouse leader at 7-under.

Mickelson declined to speak with reporters after Thursday’s round. He told TNT on Friday that he was pleased with his ball-striking, but could not get it going on the putting surfaces drenched by morning rain.

"With the weather, the rains slowing the greens down and softening them, it’s a course you can attack," Mickelson said. "We’re seeing a lot of low scores there. Unfortunately, my game was not sharp enough to attack it."

Phil lauded the course setup as a perfect showcase for golfers to strut their stuff. He, though, was not among them.

"It’s given guys that are playing well, like Adam [2-under on Friday] and Justin [Rose, the third member of the marquee group, whose second-round 66 put him a shot behind Scott], a chance to separate themselves, and guys that are hitting poor shots, like me, to fall back," Mickelson said. "It’s an ideal course to find out who’s playing the best."

Mickelson said using his "hot" 3-wood in place of a driver did not put him at a disadvantage ("I was only 10 to 15 yards behind ... Justin and Adam all day"), but his inability to figure out the greens had him treading water.

"I wasn’t sharp on the greens," he said. "I’m constantly over-reading them ... I know they’re supposed to break a little less than they look and I still am struggling adjusting."

More critical than playing aggressively and bombing it off the tee, Mickelson averred, was staying out of the deep, wet rough.

It played like "Donald Trump's hair in the showe ... just wet and tangly and nasty," according to Golf Channel’s David Feherty.

"It was more important that I get [the ball] in the fairway," Mickelson said, noting that he made pars on 17 and 18, "which was all I wanted."

More golf from SB Nation:

Phil almost forgets to register, avoids DQ | Needs directions to 1st tee

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Phil hits balls in the dark | Rory takes a step forward

Miguel Angel Jimenez takes driver out of rough, hits worst punch ever

Tiger Woods and an impossible standard

• GIFS Tom Watson needs a new shirt | Kaymer sinks it from 150 yards out

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