|-5 P Mickelson (US), L Oosthuizen (SA); -4 B Koepka (US), -3 H Matsuyama (Jpn), B Grace (SA), C Bezuidenhout (SA);|
|Selected others: -2 P Casey (Eng); -1 B DeChambeau (US); E I Poulter (Eng), M Fitzpatrick (Eng), S Lowry (Ire), P Harrington (Ire); +2 T Hatton (Eng) +3 J Rose (Eng), R McIlroy (NI)|
Phil Mickelson heads into the weekend with a share of the lead at the US PGA Championship as he looks to become the oldest player to win a major title.
The 50-year-old sits level with South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen at five under par on Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course.
Mickelson, eyeing a first major win in eight years, made five birdies in his final nine holes for a three-under 69.
Two-time winner Brooks Koepka is one back, with Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama one of three at three under.
Oosthuizen looked set to be the only player not to drop a shot during the second round on the longest course in major championship history as he approached the 18th in the lead at six under par.
But the 2010 Open champion hit his second through the back of the green and that resulted in his first bogey of the day as he signed for a 68.
“I played nicely,” said Oosthuizen. “My whole game is really felling good. It has been a long time working on my putting and short game and I am where I want to be.”
Pre-tournament favourite Rory McIlroy finished with three successive bogeys to leave himself at three over par for the tournament.
Ian Poulter had earlier edged his way into the mix before fading to finish at level par. Fellow Englishman Paul Casey is two under while Scotland’s Martin Laird is a shot further back.
South African Branden Grace was among the early starters and he led until he sent his tee shot at the daunting 223-yard par-three 17th into the water on his way to making a double bogey and he then bogeyed the 18th to slip to three under.
Matsuyama is also at three under par after a bogey at the last took the gloss off his second-round 68.
Just 18 players are under par following the opening two rounds on the blustery South Carolina coastal course but 24 are within five shots of the joint leaders.
Mickelson finds focus at Kiawah Island
Mickelson claimed the Wanamaker Trophy at this event in 2005 but the last of his five major titles came at The Open in 2013 and his most recent victories have come on the PGA’s Champions Tour.
The world number 115, who could take the record of oldest major winner from Julius Boros, who won this title in 1968 at the age of 48, says he has being trying to improve his concentration and stay more “present” by practising meditation and other drills to increase his focus.
That work came to fruition on Friday as ‘Lefty’ improved throughout his round and rolled in a 22-foot birdie on the last to take the outright lead as Grace dropped back.
Having started at the 10th, he hit the turn at one over, before a sensational run of five birdies saw him play the final nine in 31 shots.
“You are going to make a lot of bogeys out here but if you are able to prevent the doubles it is an important thing,” said Mickelson, who is the first player aged 50 or over to hold at least a share of the 36-hole lead since Sam Snead in 1966.
“Physically I’ve been able to hit the shots I want to hit as well as I ever have, but I haven’t been as sharp mentally and been able to visualise as well. It’s (meditation) been a big part of me being able to pull off some of these shots.
“It’s got more difficult as I’ve got older to focus for longer periods of time, so I’ve been trying to elongate my amounts of focus – I might go out and play 36 or 45 holes to try and focus longer than just 18.
“I’ve been trying to elongate how long I can meditate, especially on my off days, and I’m seeing progress and being able to focus longer throughout the round and as I’ve done that my scores have been getting better.”
Koepka charges as McIlroy stumbles
Koepka had knee surgery in March and suggested before the tournament he is six months away from full fitness, which must be a frightening thought for the rest of the field given some of the golf he produced on Friday.
The American made two eagles – at seven and 11 – for the first time in one of his rounds at a major as he climbed to six under before bogeys at 15 and 17 pegged him back.
“Putting was tough, if [the wind] is going to blow this hard it is tough to make pars,” he said. “You know you are going to make some bogeys.”
The four-time major champion was playing alongside McIlroy, who won this event the last time it was staged at Kiawah Island in 2012 and may feel he left several birdie chances out on the course on Friday.
The Northern Irishman began the day at three over par after another slow start to a major week but fought his way back to level par before bogeys at 16 and 17.
The world number seven found himself in trouble again on 18 and made an up-and-down bogey to end the day where he started after a level-par round of 72.
US Open champion Bryson DeChambeau enjoyed a productive opening nine to hit the turn at three under for the day but two bogeys on the back nine leaves him at one under overall.
Poulter slides after fast start
Poulter’s tournament threatened to unravel on the opening day as he dropped five shots in as many holes after a promising start to head into the second round at two over.
It was a similar story for the Englishman on Friday as he dropped four shots in his final six holes.
The 45-year-old, who has never won a major, pieced together a confident opening nine that included two birdies and an eagle at the par-five seventh.
When the world number 67 made successive birdies following the turn, he moved within one of Grace’s lead and was six under for the day after 11 holes.
A bogey followed at 13 after a wayward drive and Poulter then overhit his tee shot at the par-three 14th to drop successive strokes.
Another bogey at the 608-yard par-five 16th saw him slip back to one under and that was immediately followed by a dropped shot at 17 after a wild tee shot and he eventually signed for a two-under 70.
“I got on the 13th tee and there was a scoreboard in the distance, and it was ironic, it says, ‘Ian Poulter, 6 under through 12 and chasing down a course record’,” said Poulter.
“I just started laughing to myself, like who in the world would write that and put that on a board with that last five holes to play?”
American Jordan Spieth, chasing the career Grand Slam, finished at four over par while world number one Dustin Johnson was one shot outside the cut at six over.
World number three Justin Thomas is also heading home after narrowly missing a birdie putt on the last as he too posted a six over total.