The plan for Phil Mickelson, just a day after he tied the major championship scoring record, was to play it safe, hold it together, and let the others crumble trying to chase him down in tougher scoring conditions. Looking at the leaderboard at the end of his round, you'd think it went exactly that way for Mickelson. But in the middle of the round, he had to be tempted by the possibility of this becoming a runaway "it's ova" statement at the 36-hole mark. Those of us up before dawn watching thought so.
That's because, for a good hour or two this morning, Mickelson looked like he'd never make a bogey and only keep adding to his margin. He was totally locked-in, nearly acing the challenging Postage Stamp and extending his lead to a good five shots. Sure, the big three of Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Jordan Spieth still had to play in the afternoon, but none had looked as sharp as Mickelson and the only player on his side of the draw was the unknown and untested Soren Kjeldsen, who was FIVE shots back. The tap-in birdie at the 8th, which he thought was going in for an ace, bumped it to that 5-shot margin and with the top talents playing later in the wind, this one looked ova.
It was not supposed to go that easy for Mickelson on Friday. The winds were supposed to whip and the rains were coming, creating "proper Scottish golf" that would make scoring conditions much more difficult than Thursday's anomalous sunshine.
It would get tougher for Mickelson on the inward nine, but nothing like the sideways adventures we've seen from him before. He finally, at long last, carded his first bogey of the championship on his 30th hole. The bogey at the 12th dropped him back to 10-under, but he'd get it right pack by pouring in a putt just two holes later. His second bogey of the week came at the 15th, pushing him back to 10-under for the championship, which is where he would stay.
Henrik Stenson, one of the more talented players on Phil's side of the draw, did start to make a run at the lead late in the round, getting to 9-under with two to play. So this is far from the runaway that it looked like at about, oh, 5:30 a.m. this morning back in the United States.
Mickleson's putter is dialed-in through two rounds. There was an occasional push, such as the bogey at 15, but it's probably been his strongest club in the bag. He hit irons off every tee, refusing go at those shorter opening holes and eliminating the chance for a big mistake. The approach still yielded a 3-under 33 on that easier outward stretch. Backing up that unforgettable 63 yesterday with another round in the red was about as good as he could have expected, even with Stenson's late push. Expect plenty more irons off the tee all weekend as Phil takes up residence atop the leaderboard.
The afternoon wave is just about to start their second round, but with the wind expected to finally pick up and blow 25-35 mph, Mickelson's 10-under mark should be safe. Here's your current leaderboard: