Mickelson ends streak of 18 cuts in the majors
By DOUG FERGUSON
LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England (AP) Phil Mickelson left the British Open perplexed about the state of his game. More surprising is that he left on Friday.
The four-time major champion hit into bunkers and into the high grass. He hit a spectator and nearly drilled a photographer who was crouched in the line of his shot about 20 yards away. He wound up with a 78, and missed the cut in a major for the first in five years, dating to Carnoustie in 2007.
His 18 straight cuts in the majors had been the longest current streak.
"I don't know what to say," Mickelson said, a phrase he repeated a half-dozen times in an interview that ended when there was really nothing left to ask.
Most aggravating for Lefty is that he doesn't feel that far off.
He worked on his ball position with swing coach Butch Harmon on Thursday after opening with a 73 and was hopeful of turning it around. But it went the other way in a hurry. His approach to the par-4 sixth was slightly to the right and tumbled down into a pot bunker, and the best he could do was to blast out to 15 feet. His par putt narrowly missed, and the 2-footer that followed did a 360-degree circle around the cup for double bogey.
On the next hole, he pushed his drive to the left and beaned a spectator. With a reasonable lie, three photographers tried to capture the shot. Instead of asking them to move, Mickelson ignored them and his shot went about 3 feet over one photographer's head.
The sure sign of a struggle came on the 10th hole.
He tapped in a 2-footer for par using a saw putting grip - rest the club between the left thumb and four fingers. On the 11th tee, putter in hand, he continued to practice the stroke that Mark O'Meara used in his later years, and at one point asked if he were allowed to actually putt a golf ball on the teeing ground.
Alas, it was just a drill.
"That was just for my hands to quiet down," Mickelson said. "I wasn't going to use it."
But he'll have to figure something out, the sooner the better. Mickelson hasn't been the same since nearly overcoming two triple bogeys at the Masters and still having a chance to win on Sunday. He went nearly two months without breaking 70, which included a WD at Memorial because of "mental fatigue" and a missed cut at the Greenbrier.
He next plays the Bridgestone Invitational in two weeks, followed by the final major of the year, the PGA Championship. He said his health was not an issue.
"I'm fine," he said. "I don't know what to say about my play. I'll work with Butch this week and see if I can get some direction in my play and see if I can get myself into a better frame of mind heading into these next two months, because we've got some big tournaments coming up. I've got a lot work to do these next 10 days. It's just a little frustrating for me."
THE MAGIC OF WATSON: Tom Watson captured the zaniness of his last two holes Friday perfectly: "the ridiculous to the sublime."
A careless miss from 2 feet at No. 17 produced a bogey left him at 4-over par, certain he was going to miss the cut. Then, at No. 18, Watson misread the break on a 35-footer for birdie, started it on the wrong line and watched as "it just did a duck hook at the end there and went right into the hole."
The 2-over 72 landed Watson just inside the cut line at 143, enabling the 62-year-old five-time Open champion to extend his own record as the oldest man to play on the weekend since the British Open went to a 36-hole cut.
"I didn't see that much break at the end," Watson admitted sheepishly about his putt at the final hole. "I knew it was going to break left at the end, but I didn't know there was that much break. Good thing I did misread it.
"And like I said, it was lucky it went in," he added a moment later. "I didn't hit it where I was aiming and the putt went in the hole."
Watson is 13 strokes behind at the midway point, too far behind to realistically think about a repeat of Turnberry three years ago when he lost in a playoff.
But Watson can take some consolation knowing he'd already won his first Open before any of the first four players on the leaderboard were born. He also could wave goodbye to eight other former British Open winners - including defending champion Darren Clarke - and an additional eight former major winners.
The British Open champions departing included David Duval and Tom Lehman, who won at Royal Lytham in 2001 and 1996, respectively.
BIDING TIME: Mark Calcavecchia was never going anywhere no matter how he played Friday because he has the Senior British Open at Turnberry next week.
Then again, he should never be surprised how he plays at this championship.
He ran off three early birdies and held on for a 2-under 68. Not only was that good enough to make the cut, he even appeared on the leaderboard. The 52-year-old who won at Royal Troon eight months after Rickie Fowler was born finished at 1-under 139.
In his 26th Open, he made the cut for the 19th time.
"That was my goal," he said. "I wanted to play all four days here, and not have to sit around until Thursday of next week over at Turnberry, so I'll have something to do this weekend. I'm in a pretty good spot. I don't see why I can't shoot a couple of more scores in the 60s and wind up with a good weekend."
Calcavecchia missed his first cut in the Open at Lytham in 1988 when he had an 84 in the second round. Twenty-four years later, he was 16 shots better.
OLD RIVAL: That thunder of foot traffic in the press center Friday afternoon was the British press heading into an interview for the question of the day: Just who is Brandt Snedeker?
He's known more in America, a three-time winner who poured out his emotions after a wild final round in the 2008 Masters.
Snedeker didn't even wait for the questions. Settling into his chair, he smiled and said, "I'm sure everybody in this room is in about as much shock as I am right now."
No introduction was needed for Graeme McDowell. He said they played plenty of golf against each other in college, when Snedeker was at Vanderbilt and McDowell was at UAB.
"He was the No. 1 player and I was the No. 1 player, so we played a lot of golf together," McDowell said. "I know Brandt fairly well. I'd take a late Sunday afternoon pairing with him right now. Snap your hand off for that."
DIVOTS: Mardan Mamat, the first pro golfer from Singapore to qualify for the British Open, was disqualified from the tournament Friday for signing an incorrect scorecard. The 44-year Mamat shot 77-72 and would have missed the cut by six strokes. ... Rickie Fowler somehow managed to make the cut. He made six birdies in the second round, along with a triple bogey, bogeys on both the par 5s and a double bogey on the final hole for a 72. ... Jeev Milkha Singh and Anirban Lahiri made the cut. It is believed to be the first time two players from India made the cut in the same major. ... One British fan had some difficulties identifying an American player on the 11th tee. Bo Van Pelt hit driver on the par 5, and the fan first referred to him as Matt Kuchar, before correcting himself to Dustin Johnson. ... There were three rounds in the 80s: Ian Keenan, European Amateur champion Manuel Trappel, and two-time major champion Angel Cabrera, who opened with a 71. ... Rory McIlroy's second-round scoring average in his five British Opens is 74.8. He has broken par only once, a 69 last year at Royal St. George's.
Updated July 20, 2012