US Open Golf 2011: How Phil Mickelson Can Remain in Contention Over the Weekend

Thomas ConroyCorrespondent IJune 18, 2011

BETHESDA, MD - JUNE 17:  Phil Mickelson watches a shot from the rough on the 18th hole during the second round of the 111th U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club on June 17, 2011 in Bethesda, Maryland.  (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)
David Cannon/Getty Images

Playing golf on your birthday is vastly overrated.

After a disastrous first round, Phil Mickelson met with Butch Harmon and together they made a couple adjustments to his swing that allowed Lefty to consistently put his tee shot onto the fairway. Unfortunately, he ended a terrific round on such a low note, a double-bogey on the 18th hole, and that left Mickelson one-over-par for the tournament after shooting a 69 on Friday.

Lefty’s goal was to make birdies and move up quickly on the leaderboard to at least give him a chance to compete for an Open title. And move he did, as Mickelson started the second round in 63rd place and finished tied for 26th place, which affords him the opportunity to contend on the weekend.  

Given his propensity for risk-taking on the golf course, he wouldn’t be Phil Mickelson if he didn’t take a chance after an errant tee shot on the final hole. Lefty was three yards away from having another “signature” recovery shot to save par, but the ball took an unfortunate bounce that led it right into the water alongside the green. It’s not that he doesn’t have confidence in his irons, but rather Mickelson has more confidence in his ability to convert a difficult shot time and time again.

It’s good that Lefty has a short memory, as he must focus on gaining results on Saturday rather than lamenting about his past mistakes. He knows how to play for this championship; 21 appearances at the U.S. Open and Mickelson holds the record of five second-place finishes.

Lefty has solved the problem of managing himself on the golf course, he realizes that every tee shot will not land on the fairway, as his talent can salvage par to remain in contention. Mickelson has become more comfortable with the type of player he has evolved into.

Coming into the weekend, the biggest challenge to any golfer playing in a major is being a good judge of your idle time. Newcomers make the mistake of constantly thinking about how they will play at the U.S. Open. Mickelson fully understands that the next 36 holes of golf will be most difficult rounds he’ll play this year.