Mickelson revels in new-found confidence

After Phil Mickelson won the Masters in April he celebrated with a trip to New York that included appearing on the David Letterman talk show and ringing the opening bell at the stock exchange. He may be from California, but the Big Apple seems to be his sort of place.

After Phil Mickelson won the Masters in April he celebrated with a trip to New York that included appearing on the David Letterman talk show and ringing the opening bell at the stock exchange. He may be from California, but the Big Apple seems to be his sort of place.

Mickelson was smiling his way around the course yesterday morning with great roars greeting his birdies as he took the lead in the 104th US Open at six under par.

The left-hander finished fourth at Shinnecock in 1995, but it was two years ago at Bethpage, further west of here along Long Island, that New Yorkers took him to their hearts.

Despite finishing second for the second time in a US Open, and adding to his major near-misses, he was adored as everyone's favourite underdog by the gallery and the affection has not worn off now that he has finally become a winner.

Winning at Augusta proved that he was right to curb the daring heroics that have brought him quite a few pots on the regular circuit. He now has such control over the ball that he is hard to find anyone who is more confident about facing the harsh conditions of a major championship.

Ernie Els might come close, but in the opening round here he had to retrieve a poor start and he set out for his second round yesterday afternoon at level par.

Control is the one thing that Tiger Woods has struggled to regain of late and, at two over par, he was the subject of an outburst from his former coach Butch Harmon as their split becomes ever more acrimonious.

"He's not swinging the golf club well and he's not working on the right things in his swing," Harmon said. "He says he's getting close, but I think he's in denial."

Mickelson dropped only one shot in an opening 68 which he completed yesterday morning after a thunderstorm late on Thursday. The bogey came at the par-three seventh, where he resumed his round. "It's the hardest hole on the course and it wasn't fun thinking about it all last night," he said. He immediately birdied the next and did not make a bogey for the rest of the day.

Carrying a swarm of spectators around the course on another calm but clammy morning, Mickelson birdied the first and the eighth, where he pitched close, to go to the turn in 33. Angel Cabrera, one of the first-round leaders with later starters Jay Haas and Shigeki Maruyama, got to five under, but took a double bogey at the 18th to drop out of the lead as the birdies dried up for the Argentinean.

Mickelson, however, was on full steam ahead and added more birdies at the 12th and the par-five 16th, where he got up and down from a greenside bunker. A chance at the last came up short, but a 66 gave him a two-stroke lead over Fred Funk.

"No question, today was the day for scoring," Mickelson said. "Granted, the course was extremely hard and fast, but the pin placements weren't Sunday locations, the wind wasn't blowing and the greens smoothed out after the rain. Being in this position in a US Open is certainly a fun spot to be."

As for his reception on the course, Mickelson said: "I love playing golf right now and I love playing in the New York area. I had an awesome experience at Bethpage and the people here are incredible. I love how sports knowledgeable everybody is. It is a lot of fun playing here."

Despite not playing until late yesterday, Phillip Price, at level par, and Sergio García, at two over, were the leading Europeans. Padraig Harrington became his second round with two birdies having found the speed of the greens more to his liking, but he could only add a 71 to his first-round 73 to be four over par.

Darren Clarke, frustrated at not being able to get the ball close enough to the hole with his approach play, also opened with a 73, but slipped to seven over, while Justin Rose, who enjoyed the course in practice, was in nightmare territory at 14 over after 31 holes after his 77.

The tournament was over for Miguel Angel Jimenez after a nine at the par-three 11th when he failed to putt onto the green five times before chipping on and taking two more putts.

US OPEN SCORES FROM SHINNECOCK HILLS

US unless stated

Early second-round scores

139

M Weir (Can) 69 70

140

P Perez

73 67

142

*S Levin

69 73

143

T Clark (SA)

73 70

J Ogilvie

70 73

144

S McRoy

72 72

J Rollins

76 68

G Sisk

72 72

145

T Carter 74 71

*B Haas

72 73

146

D Waldorf

72 74

M Campbell (NZ)

78 68

R Sabbatini (SA)

72 74

147

B Watson

73 74

D Olsen

73 74

148

J Sindelar

79 69

D Paulson

72 76

151

A Baddeley (Aus)

79 72

T Hamilton

77 74

153

P Osborn 76 77

First round

66

J Haas

S Maruyama (Japan)

A Cabrera (Arg)

67

C Pavin

68

K Cox

J Maggert

D Roesch

B Curtis

S Kendall

K Stadler

P Mickelson

S Flesch

V Singh (Fiji)

69

T Petrovic

B Gay

T Immelman (SA)

B Van Pelt

70

H Tanaka (Japan)

P Price (GB)

E Els (SA)

R Allenby (Aus)

F Funk

Z Johnson

C Parry (Aus)

R Goosen (SA)

B Mayfair

71

*C Wittenberg

M Calcavecchia

D Hart

P Lonard (Aus)

C DiMarco

S Micheel

K Triplett

S Verplank

J Leonard

B Jones (Aus)

72

C Riley

E Romero (Arg)

S Garcia (Sp)

T Woods

C Campbell

T Kite

J Furyk

C Kresge

E Axley

L Janzen

T Izawa (Japan)

S Leaney (Aus)

J P Hayes

C Paulson

73

L Westwood (GB)

C Dechert

D Chopra (Swe)

*B Mackenzie

B Davis (GB)

*N Smith

B Lardon

B Baird

*C Villegas (Col)

T Pernice

A Tschudin (Aus)

J Connelly

*C Reavie

B Tway

N Price (Zim)

P Harrington (Irl)

D Toms

D Clarke (GB)

J L Lewis

74

P Casey (GB), R Beem, J Haeggman (Swe), J Byrd, D Forsman, B Faxon, K Perry, I Poulter (GB), B Estes, S Allan (Aus), M Brooks, T Isenhour, S Cink, S Ames (Trin), R Garrigus

75

R Floyd, A Cejka (Ger), S Hoch, G Hjertstedt (Swe), J Gove, D Morland, D Faught, T Levet (Fr), T Herron, F Jacobson (Swe), A Scott (Aus), J J Henry, S Stricker, S Hend (Aus), F Couples, C Howell, P McLachlin, O Uresti, S Sokol, J Hicks

76

D Love III, J Elliott, J Senden (Aus), T Byrum, K Sutherland, C Bowden, M Gogel, S Gotsche, L Olson, J Kelly, K J Choi (S Kor), Paul Lawrie (GB), S Weatherly, J Douma

77

J Wagner, T Bjorn (Den), J Kaye, C Smith, J Rose (GB), M A Jimenez (Sp)

78

C Bourque, J Green, *O Alvarez (Col), J Maxon

79 P Jordan, S Appleby (Aus), R Tambellini. 80 *N Flanagan (Aus). 81 N Faldo (GB). 83 D Duval, D Carr. Retired: C Franco (Par).

* amateur

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