Charlotte - Three-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson fired a five-under
par 67 on Friday to seize a two-stroke lead after the second round of the $6.7m
US PGA Wells Fargo Championship.
US left-hander Mickelson, who opened with a 14-foot birdie putt on his way
to back-to-back birdies, stood on nine-under 135 after 36 holes at Quail
"I got off to a good start so that set a good tone for the round,"
Mickelson said. "I really am excited about the way I'm hitting it off the
tee. If I drive it well this weekend, it's going to be a fun weekend. And I
fully expect to."
Australia's Scott Gardiner, who fired a bogey-free 67, shared second on 137
with Americans Nick Watney and George McNeill with world number two Rory
McIlroy among five others sharing fifth place, three strokes off the pace.
Mickelson also birdied the par-5 seventh and the ninth before taking his
lone bogey at the 12th, which he answered with birdies at the 14th and par-5 15th
to move atop the leaderboard by himself.
"I have to drive it better to be more aggressive to shoot lower this
weekend because I'm getting as much out of the round as I can," he said.
Mickelson, who finished second behind McIlroy at Quail Hollow in 2010, likes
his chances to win an elusive first US Open title after five runner-up efforts
next month at Merion.
"I would love nothing more than to win a US Open," Mickelson said.
"Finishing second five times and not ever winning it would be a huge
disappointment and I think Merion is going to be a good opportunity for me
because it's not necessary to hit drivers off a lot of holes.
"And the strength of my game, which is short mid-irons into the green,
I think that will give me a good chance."
Northern Ireland's McIlroy was on 138 after a second-round 71. He began and
ended the back nine, his first nine holes of the day, with bogeys, but
responded with birdies at the first and fourth and made another at the eighth.
That left McIlroy, one of seven co-leaders after day one, level with
England's Lee Westwood, Australian Rod Pampling and Americans Jason Kokrak and
"I hit the ball really well again and gave myself a lot of
opportunities," McIlroy said. "I actually played pretty well on the
back side. I gave myself plenty of chances. I just didn't take any of them.
"It took me a while to get adjusted to the green speeds this morning.
They were a lot quicker than they were last night. I misjudged my first putt on
10. I had a 15-footer for birdie and hit it 10 feet past so that was a nice
little wake-up call."
McIlroy, in his first event since sharing 25th at the Masters, has big
expectations for the next few months, including a title defence at the PGA
Championship in August at Oak Hill as well as next month's US Open and the
British Open in July.
"I'm comfortable with my game," McIlroy said. "I feel good.
I'm looking forward to a big summer coming up."
Gardiner put himself in the final pairing with a sizzling start, opening
with a birdie and then adding four in a row to conclude the front nine, the
last a seven-foot birdie putt before missing a 16-foot birdie bid at the 10th.
"Probably nobody is more surprised than I am," Gardiner said.
"I just haven't been putting it together. I've putted poorly all year,
haven't really saved any shots around the greens.
"It's just nice to get a few birdies and save a few pars because when I
have been giving myself opportunities I haven't been taking them."
Gardiner, of Aborignal heritage, received a boost as a young golfer from a
program called "The Hunt for the Australian Tiger" in 2000 when Tiger
Woods was the sport's brightest star.
"Coming into turning professional I was afforded some scholarships...
which sort of helped take me from a good amateur to starting a professional
Leading second-round scores on Friday from the US PGA $6.7m
Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow (USA unless noted, par-72):
135 - Phil Mickelson 68-67
137 - Scott Gardiner (AUS) 70-67, Nick Watney 67-70, George McNeill 69-68
138 - Rory McIlroy (NIR) 67-71, Lee Westwood (ENG) 70-68, Rod Pampling (AUS) 69-69, Jason Kokrak 68-70, Derek Ernst 67-71
139 - Lucas Glover 68-71, David Lynn (ENG) 71-68, Robert Garrigus 67-72
- DA Points 71-69, Kevin Streelman 68-72, Russell Henley 69-71, Zach
Johnson 68-72, Brian Harman 70-70, Daniel Summerhays 67-73, Sergio
Garcia (ESP) 72-68, Jordan Spieth 69-71
141 - Ted Potter 71-70, Ross Fisher (ENG) 70-71, Nate Smith 67-74, David Hearn (CAN) 69-72, Robert Karlson (SWE) 69-72
- Dicky Pride 71-71, Angel Cabrera (ARG) 73-69, Kyle Stanley 74-68,
Stuart Appleby (AUS) 71-71, Vaughn Taylor 70-72, Shawn Stefani 69-73,
Ryan Moore 67-75, Trevor Immelman (RSA) 70-72, James Driscoll 70-72