SAN DIEGO — Phil Mickelson, one day after firing a disappointing 75, played himself back into the tournament Friday, shooting a 2-under 69 in the second round of the U.S. Open to get to 2-over for the week.
“I played really well today,’’ said Mickelson, who trails co-leaders Richard Bland and Russell Henley by sevens strokes. “I struck the ball really well, and it made it a lot easier. I was able to play aggressively. I didn’t probably take advantage of all of the opportunities that I had, but I played a good solid round of golf. I know that I didn’t make a run today, but I’m playing well enough to make a run on the weekend.’’
Mickelson punctuated his day with a birdie on the 18th, nearly draining a long eagle putt after getting onto the par-5 green in two.
“I know the course is going to get harder,’’ he said. “It was set up beautifully. It’s going to get tougher and tougher pins and trying to be patient and pick my spots. I’m looking forward to the weekend. Feel like I’m playing good enough to make a run at it.’’
Two stars — Rory McIlroy and Brooks Koepka — are not out of it yet.
McIlroy remained on the cusp of contention through the first two rounds at 1-over after shooting 73 Friday. He’s still searching for some momentum, though, calling his tournament so far “a bit of a roller coaster.’’
“Even though Richard Bland up there at 5-under, 1-over is right in it,’’ he said. “So, for the weekend, [I] still feel like I’ve got a really good chance.’’
Koepka looked like he was in position to make a move Friday, but he faltered after a strong start and shot 73 to stand at even par entering the weekend, five shots off the lead.
“I hung in there,’’ he said. “I feel right there. I feel like I’m in it.’’
Jon Rahm, who has developed a reputation for losing his temper on occasion but has made efforts to curb that habit, was asked on Friday how close he was to losing his temper in the second round, since he looked frustrated at times.
“Am I ever going to escape that question?’’ Rahm said. “I never lost it. I got a little frustrated on a couple of holes. Just because I felt like I was making decent swings and not getting the results sometimes that you’d expect with certain swings.
“I think the most frustrating moment might have been 13 just because of how good a tee shot I had. I had plenty of club to get in there. I had a 5-wood, and I didn’t even have to hit it that hard. I just hit is so bad and it ended up so short in a tough lie. Just making a bogey there was probably the most frustrated I got.
“I was a bit more vocal on 14 after the second shot because I felt that was a good swing and I felt like it just got [wind] gusted. But, hey, I made the next shot, so I can’t really say much. I never really lost it.’’
Scarborough native Cameron Young missed the cut, shooting 8-over, following his 72 Thursday with a 78 Friday. … Hayden Buckley, who shot 69 on Thursday, shot 82 Friday and missed the cut. … Viktor Hovland was forced to withdraw during his Friday round after dirt or debris got into his eye while he was practicing before the round. He tried to play, but said the pain was too great for him to carry on. … Both Molinari brothers — Francesco (2-over) and Edoardo (4-over) — made the cut, becoming the first brother tandem to make a U.S. Open cut since brothers Jumbo and Joe Ozaki did it in 1973.
One of the cool under-the-radar stories developing this week is Kyle Westmoreland, the first Air Force Academy graduate to compete in a U.S. Open, and the first to play in one of golf’s four major championships.
The 29-year-old Westmoreland, who shot 71-72 and is 2-over, made the cut.
He put his professional dreams on hold for five years while serving in the Air Force and advanced through local qualifying at Columbia Country Club in Blythewood, S.C., where he was medalist by two strokes (69), and sectional final qualifying at Dallas Athletic Club. He had five victories in college while at the Air Force Academy, and has made five starts on the Korn Ferry Tour and two on the PGA Tour.