Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama leads Asian challenge (Pic: File / Getty); Phil Mickelson, the co-leader. File pic
Kiawah Island, S.C: Phil Mickelson turned the clock around with a stunning 5-under 31 on his second nine, which was the front side of the Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course to card a 69 that gave him a share of the lead with Louis Oosthuizen (71-68). Both are at 5-under for 36 holes and one shot ahead of Brooks Koepka (69-71) ay 4-under. Only 18 players remained under par.
Mickelson, 50, was tentative on the first nine with one birdie and three bogeys, two of them on 17-18. Then came the magic show with birdies on second, fourth, fifth, seventh and ninth.
With Mickelson was South African Oosthuizen, winner of the 2010 Open Championship, and who holds a unique distinction of having finished runner-up at each of the four Majors.
Masters champion, Hideki Matsuyama (73-68) was Tied-4th and two shots behind the co-leaders, while Rory McIlroy (75-72) was T-39. Matsuyama had six birdies in his 68 and he was two shots behind with Grace and Christiaan Bezuidenuit (70).
Meanwhile, the wind on Kiawah Island swept aside World No. 1 and reigning FedExCup champ Dustin Johnson (74=76), who missed consecutive major cuts in the same year for the first time in his career.
It was not just Johnson but some other big names, too, missed the weekend and the list was illustrious and included some other major winners Justin Thomas, Sergio Garcia and Adam Scott, besides multiple TOUR winners Marc Leishman and Xander Schauffele.
Former world No. 1 Jason Day thought he’d missed the cut after the morning wave when he posted 5-over but the high winds helped him stay on and his chase for the spot in the US Open at Torrey Pines.
After negotiating the tougher back nine of the Ocean Course in 2-over, Mickelson found his rhythm, with superb iron play and some great putting, especially long distance. His 5-under 31 gave him a 3-under 69.
Oosthuizen was 5-under without bogeys till he gave away a shot on 18th, which brought him to 68 and from sole lead dropped him into shared lead with Mickelson.
Four-time major champion Koepka, who has played little in recent month, flew on two eagles, which were however negated by four bogeys in a round of 71. But he is only one behind.
Mickelson and Oosthuizen were at 5-under 139, the highest 36-hole score to lead the PGA Championship since the last time at Kiawah Island in 2012 when three players were at 140.
Mickelson is the oldest player to have a share of the lead at the midway point of a major since Fred Couples (52) in the 2012 Masters.
If Mickelson can hold on for a win, he could go past Julius Boros’ record of 48 years when he won the 1968 PGA Championship.
Mickelson has not won on the PGA TOUR in two years. His last major championship was the 2013 Open Championship at Muirfield.