Golf: Mickelson declares his intention

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The Independent Online
Phil Mickelson, who has been accustomed to winning the Northern Telecom Open and as a result having a negligible phone bill, is in a position at Valhalla to win the first major prize of his young career. The left- hander from Scottsdale, Arizona has a handy lead going into today's third round of the 78th US PGA Championship here.

Mickelson, who had an outstanding amateur career before turning professional four years ago, led the field with two rounds of 67 to stand at 10 under par, three strokes in front of Justin Leonard. Mickelson, who was third in the Masters this year behind Nick Faldo and Greg Norman, came home yesterday in 32, a figure that could only be matched by Mark Brooks.

Mickelson was joint 94th in the US Open and tied 40th in the Open. "I was not pleased with my performances in those and wanted to work on my putting under pressure," he said. "I came with a positive and aggressive mind to attack. This is my last opportunity to turn a good year into a great year." Mickelson, who has three victories on the US Tour this season and is a certainty for the US Ryder Cup team next year, had four birdies on the back nine yesterday.

Norman was heading for another weekend in the chasing pack as the US PGA went into overtime yesterday. Norman, the world No 1, had a hectic schedule but managed to make the leaderboard at the halfway stage, six shy of Mickelson.

Neither he nor Faldo have won the US PGA and among his near misses the Australian was second in 1986 and again in 1993. Some defeats are hard and the question haunting Norman is whether he can recover his nerve following the trauma of his collapse at Augusta in April. Leading by six going into the final round, he shot 78 to Faldo's 67 and has since maintained he did not, in fact, choke on a scale that would have made the Boston Strangler look like an amateur.

Yesterday Norman moved into contention again but just when he threatened to move alongside the leaders he got hit for six on the back nine. In the first round on Thursday he had been left high and not so dry by a ferocious thunderstorm that halted play for nearly four hours. He was one of 60 out of 150 that were unable to complete their rounds. Norman was at one under par after 14 holes and had to be at the course at 7.20am and play four holes before returning to the first tee to play the second round. As for Faldo, who began with a 69, he struggled over the opening holes in the second round and finished with a 75. He is on level par, 10 shots behind Mickelson. "I couldn't see, feel or do anything," a bemused Faldo said. "It's back to the drawing board. First thing I've got to do is find a new putter."

Norman took advantage of conditions that were almost perfect, a gentle breeze replacing the suffocating humidity, and picked up three birdies in four holes to finish the first round with a 68.

Ian Woosnam, who also had to rise early to continue his first round at the 15th, had a six at the 18th after being in a position to share the lead with Phil Mickelson, Kenny Perry and the Fijian Vijay Singh. Resuming at five under par, Woosnam dropped to four under and in the second round he struggled over the front nine before launching a recovery. He had three successive bogeys from the sixth. He missed from six feet to save par at the sixth; drove into the left rough at the seventh before missing the green from 120 yards with his third and at the short eighth missed a five-footer.

However, as Norman faltered turning for home, the Welshman retrieved his round with birdies at the 13th and 14th. Norman got to seven under for the championship but dropped a shot at the 12th and a double bogey six at the 15th put him at four under, along with Woosnam.

Perry, a Kentuckian, moved to eight under with a birdie at the 10th. However, he came home in 37 for a 72 that left him on six under. Perry was warned about slow play at the 13th and was told at the 17th that if he did not improve his pace of play he would be penalised a stroke. At the 18th, facing a three-footer for a birdie, he hurried the stroke and missed.

Last night the field was reduced to the leading 70 and ties and Colin Montgomerie, the world No 2, missed the cut. He had a torrid time on the back nine in the second round and a bogey at the 12th, a double bogey on 15 and another bogey on 16 put him at four over for the championship following a 77.

US PGA CHAMPIONSHIP (Valhalla GC, Louisville, Ky): Early second-round scores (US unless stated): 134 P Mickelson 67 67. 137 J Leonard 71 66. 138 K Perry 66 72; V Singh (Fiji) 69 69; M Brooks 68 70. 139 L Janzen 68 71. 140 G Norman (Aus) 68 72; I Woosnam (GB) 68 72; T Watson 69 71; D Edwards 69 71. 141 L Mize 71 70; F Nobilo (NZ) 69 72. 142 E Els (SA) 74 68; F Couples 74 68; M Jimenez (Sp) 71 71; F Funk 73 69; N Henke 72 70. 143 D Duval 74 69; F Zoeller 76 67; E Aubrey 69 74; P Stewart 73 70; N Lancaster 71 72; J Maggert 73 70; J Morse 74 69; J Gallagher 73 70; J Adams 72 71, C Strange 73 70, P Burke 71 72; J Haas 72 71. 144 M Calcavecchia 70 74; S Higashi (Japan) 72 72; DA Weibring 71 73; W Austin 70 74; B Mayfair 71 73; C Rocca (It) 72 72; P Goydos 71 73; L Rinker 73 71; G Mogan 72 72; J Cook 69 75; T Herron 71 73; N Faldo 69 75. 145 M Bradley 73 72; M Dawson 76 69; H Clark (GB) 73 72; P Stankowski 70 75; C Pavin 71 74; D Forsman 76 69; M Dawson 76 69; T Nakajima (Japan) 73 72; P-U Johansson (Swe) 73 72; G Day 72 73; P Blackmar 71 74; M Wiebe 73 72; S Ingraham 73 72; D Ogrin 75 70; B Langer (Ger) 73 72; J Sindelar 73 72; A Cejka (Ger) 71 74; S Stricker 73 72. 146 J Roth 69 77; G Bowman 72 74; D Love 73 73; B Estes 72 74; B Chamblee 74 72. 147 C Tucker 71 76; J Huston 72 75; B Bryant 74 73; S Simpson 73 74; L Roberts 72 75; T Purtzer 72 75; JD Blake 74 73. 148 J McGovern 71 77; C Montgomerie (GB) 71 77; M James (GB) 73 75; B McCallister 74 74; B Lohr 75 73; B Andrade 75 73. 149 T Tryba 78 71; T Kite 76 73; C Stadler 77 72; J Wilson 74 75. 150 L Clements 75 75. 151 K Triplett 72 79; L Nielson 80 71. 152 W Chapman 77 75; M Taylor 79 73; L Wadkins 75 77. 153 B Ford 78 75; E Terasa 74 79 154 M Ozaki (Japan) 75 79. 156 J Bermel 81 75; R Philo 78 78.

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