Phil Mickelson rolled in a short birdie Friday at the par-4 18th hole at Augusta National Golf Club, his 11th birdie in two days, to polish off his second straight under-par round and solidify a comfortable spot on the Masters leaderboard.
By following Thursday’s 71 with a 69, Mickelson did more than just ensure he’ll make the cut. He was tied for 10th at 4 under with play still in progress Friday afternoon.
“I scored really well today,” Mickelson said. “I actually did not hit it anywhere near as well as I did yesterday. But I scored well. I got it up and down, made a lot of good putts.”
Less than two years after Mickelson became the oldest major champion in golf history, the three-time Masters winner contending might have been less surprising in an alternate universe. But “Lefty” has been away from the public eye — he skipped the 2022 Masters amid the controversy surrounding his comments about LIV Golf and Saudi Arabia, then took on a lighter tournament schedule as part of LIV.
Mickelson has just one top-10 finish and two top-20s in one-plus years at LIV, where he’s competing against just 47 other golfers and tournaments are 54 holes rather than 72. His best finish in three LIV events this year is 27th. Nothing about his recent form indicated he would be a factor at Augusta.
Mickelson credited his Hy Flyers teammate at LIV, Brendan Steele, for helping him sort out recent driver troubles and said he was finally turning good ball-striking into good numbers.
“I’m going to go on a tear pretty soon,” Mickelson said. “You wouldn’t think it. You look at the scores. But I’ve been playing exactly how I played yesterday, hitting the ball great, turning 65s, 66s into 77s. I’m ready to go on a tear.”
As for whether that could happen as soon as this weekend, he answered, “It’s possible. Who knows when it will click. It could click tomorrow. I don’t know. Part of it is just slowing my mind down and letting it happen and then it clicks. But that’s kind of the biggest challenge in the game is not forcing it.”
On Friday, Mickelson’s big miscue was a poor chip at the par-3 sixth that failed to get up a severe ridge in the green, rolling far off in the other direction and leading to a double bogey. But that didn’t slow him down, as four of his five birdies came after that hole.
Being the face of the LIV movement meant many resented Mickelson’s admission that he was looking past the Saudi government’s human rights atrocities to partner with the Saudi-funded league. In his first week back at the Masters since his unpopular decision, Mickelson was asked if Augusta was “therapeutic” in any way.
“I would use the word more spiritual because, if you love golf, when you come here, it’s more of a spiritual experience, where you feel this appreciation for this great game and the gratitude that you have,” he said.
“Then this tournament, this course gives something for everybody to aspire to. If you’re a kid and you’re dreaming of playing in the Masters and you want to win it, it gives you something to aspire to. It did for me.”
–Field Level Media