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Phil Mickelson holds on to one shot lead
February 18, 2012

Phil Mickelson wasn’t at his best Friday at Riviera, yet his 1-under 70 was enough for him to retain a one-stroke lead after two rounds of the Northern Trust Open.

Despite having only two birdie chances inside 15 feet, Mickelson holed out from the eighth fairway for eagle and chipped in for birdie on the par-3 16th; enough to get his round into the black.

Mickelson made three par saves from outside 10 feet, starting with his opening hole at the par-4 10th. He went from the front bunker to the back bunker, blasted out safely to 18 feet and curled in the par putt.

That set the tone for a day that only looked good on the scorecard.

“I probably didn’t play the greatest today, but I was able to kind of salvage a good round and had a good break on eight where I holed out from the fairway,” he said. “That was a nice little bonus.”

“With 36 holes to go, I’m right in the thick of it. I’ve got to go out and shoot some low scores, because they’re out there. But I gave myself an opportunity.”

Second-placed Pat Perez had a tournament-best 65, without a bogey on his card, and he saved his best shot for the final hole. He hit his tee shot on the 18th and was too far right, the green blocked by the eucalyptus trees. Perez cut a 6-iron, hopeful of finding the green, and it wound up 12 feet away for a birdie he wasn’t expecting.

“I didn’t hit it like you’d think I would,” Perez said. “I didn’t drive it all that great. I just scrambled well. I put myself in the right places to make par or birdie.”

Mickelson was at 6-under 136, assured of being atop the leaderboard for the third straight round.

Behind Perez, the group at 4-under 138 included Jimmy Walker (66), Carl Pettersson (70), Jonathan Byrd (70), Marc Leishman (69) and Matt Kuchar (69), who had a solid day without too much excitement until he drilled his tee shot to a back left pin on No. 6 and left himself 5 feet for birdie.

Before he could putt, he was stung by a bee in his arm.

“I haven’t been stung by a bee in probably 20 years,” Kuchar said. “I had stopped being scared of bees. The thing got me, and it was really painful. It was not much fun.”

Bubba Watson had a 69 and was in the group another shot back, while world No. 1 Luke Donald had a 72 and was only six shots out of the lead.

As usual, the 144-man field could not finish before darkness. Eight players will have to return Saturday morning to finish, with the cut likely to be at 3-over 145.

Mickelson and Perez, who will play in the final group, grew up playing each other in San Diego. This is different. Perez hasn’t missed a cut this year on the West Coast Swing, but has only one career win. Mickelson is going for his 41st, and trying to become the first player since Tiger Woods in 2009 to win consecutive tour events.

Mickelson is coming off a big win last week at Pebble Beach.

“He’s playing well, and I’m going to have to play awful well to beat him this weekend,” Perez said. “I’m not worried about him. It’ll be fun to play with him, but I know that I have to play well out there to beat everybody else, as well.”

Joe Ogilvie delivered the shot of the day, making an ace on the 16th hole with a 7-iron. It was his third hole-in-one on the PGA Tour, and he has yet to win a prize. At least at a tour event, he didn’t have to buy drinks.

“There were 10 guys up there that looked like they could drink 1,000 beers,” he said. “I’m glad I didn’t do this at my club.”

He shot 71 and was at even-par 142.

Tim Clark, meanwhile, was headed home after an 82 and a smile. It was his first tournament since The Players Championship because of elbow surgery he had five months ago.

“I felt pretty good, to be honest,” Clark said. “I’m quite surprised with how my body actually felt. I wasn’t able to score at all. In terms of the arm, and how the body felt, I was quite encouraged.

“The fact I could get through 18 holes without having any pain is quite nice.”

Scores

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