Playing with Rory McIlroy and Bryson DeChambeau can be an intimidating experience, even if you are Phil Mickelson. But Lefty showed that deft touch can be as potent as bombing your way around a course while posting a 63 in the second round of the Travelers Championship. That earned him a one-stroke advantage over Will Gordon and Mackenzie Hughes, both men at 12-under 128.
The finesse with which Mickelson approached his task at hand was evident at the par-4 7th hole. Both McIlroy and DeChambeau fired themselves towards the green driving over 350yards off the tee. Mickelson though showed no such urgency, working his way to a birdie with a 3-wood off the tee.
“I made some strides in the sense that I didn’t try to go toe-to-toe with two of the longest guys in the game,” admitted Mickelson.
“There are some holes where I can open it up and hit driver,” he added. “But really, I just want to get it in play.”
Mickelson is playing his 624th professional event and a 45th victory this weekend could help him tie Walter Hagen for career victories. More importantly though, Mickelson is still learning even at the age of fifty. He explained as much, when he dissected how he missed the cut trying to keep up with Bubba Watson and Brooks Koepka earlier this month.
The Travelers is his first event since turning 50 recently, and the wisdom and experience are serving Lefty very well, as he shot his way to the lead with a 63 on Friday. He raced through the home stretch in just 30 strokes and his card contained eight birdies.
Denny McCarthy tested positive for COVID-19, withdrawing on Friday. Bud Cauley also withdrew, even though he tested negative. Cauley had played with McCarthy on Thursday and stepped out as a measure of precaution. There have been seven withdrawals so far.
23-year-old Will Gordon enjoyed being the leader after retiring to the clubhouse on a 62 made from an early start on Friday. Overnight leader, Hughes could only shoot 68 to follow through on an opening 60 to move into the second position with Gordon.
Despite a placid 68 in the second round, McIlroy remained optimistic of a strong weekend. He is four off the pace, having made 63 on Thursday.
“I know what it feels like to go low out here, so I’ll need a couple of good ones over the weekend,” McIlroy said. “But the game feels in decent shape, and obviously get out early tomorrow and try to get back in the mix.
Collin Morikawa missed the cut after 22 straight tournaments without missing one. He was chasing Tiger Woods’ mark of 25 straight events, but was relieved more than disappointed about the end of his streak.
“It was bound to happen at some point,” Morikawa said. “Who knows when that was going to be. But now I guess we’re going to stop talking about it and I can go and just go on to next week. I’m going to learn a lot from this week.”
Xander Schauffele, Brendan Steele, Brendon Todd and Marc Leishman are all tied in fourth with McIlroy at 9-under 131.