It was only 10 days ago that golfer Phil Mickelson turned 50. On Friday, he played with the poise of a veteran to grab the lead at the midway point of the 2020 Travelers Championship.
Mickelson had eight birdies, including four in the final six holes of his round, to take a one-stroke lead over youngster Will Gordon and first round leader Mackenzie Hughes of Canada. Mickelson had a 63 and finished with a two-round total of 127, the second-lowest score that he has posted after two round in his PGA career.
Gordon, playing on a sponsor’s exemption, had eight birdies on the first 11 holes he played on Friday to shoot 62 – the best score of the day – and pull within one shot of Mickelson. Hughes had a career-best round of 60 on Thursday and followed that up with a 68 to finish a two-round total of 128.
Five players are tied for fourth place with 131, four shots behind Mickelson including No. 1 Rory McIlroy and 2012 Travelers champion Marc Leishman.
Due to the forecast of rain in the afternoon, the golfers will tee off early beginning at 7 a.m. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, no fans are allowed on the course but there are plenty of options to see the action.
Coverage of PGA Tour.com and the PGA feed on Twitter begins at 7 a.m. Coverage on The Golf Channel will be from 8:50 to 10:50 a.m. and again from 1-3 p.m. Coverage on CBS and local affiliate WFSB Channel 3 will be from 3-6 p.m.
Mickelson will begin Saturday with the lead as he looks to win his third Travelers Championship and become just the eighth player in PGA history to win a tournament at the age of 50 or over.
“I didn’t try to go toe-to-toe with two of the longest (driving) guys in the game,” Mickelson said referring to McIlroy and Bryson DeChambeau. “I ended up hitting some 3-woods on some of those holes because it fit my game better and fortunately, I made a couple of birdies.
“I am thinking about No. 7 (hole) as an example,” Mickelson said. “They hit drivers and I hit 3-wood and was still able to make birdie. Playing my game and the way the course set up for me was a challenge when you’re playing with guys that hit like that. But it allowed me to play some good golf.”
DeChambeau, who is eight-under-par with a two-total total of 132, had a 358-yard drive on the par-4 ninth hole, which was the longest on that hole at TPC River Highlands since 2008.
Twenty years ago at the age of 30, Mickelson admitted that he may have tried to match his opponents’ big drives. It didn’t work for him recently at the Genesis Invitational in Los Angeles in February.
“I tried in Los Angeles to match it (long drives) with Brooks (Kopeka) and Bubba (Watson) and I was trying to swing hard and I ended up missing the cut,” Mickelson said. “I learned from that. There are some holes I can open it up and try to hit a driver. But really, I just want to get it in play on a lot of holes and let my wedges take over. I’ve hit a lot of good wedge shots this week.”
Last spring, Gordon was the Southeast Conference (SEC) Player of the Year at Vandervilt University. Now, he is in second place here at the Travelers. He missed just one green in regulation in the second round for his 62 – a career-low for him.
“I just tried to come into today with a really positive mindset and aggressive mindset,” Gordon said. “I was able to do that and execute early. Whenever I get that momentum early, I usually don’t let it go.”
Another two players withdrew from the tournament due to the COVID-19 virus, bringing the total of players withdrawing to seven. Five players withdrew on Wednesday.
On Friday, golfer Dennis McCarthy withdrew after he tested positive in a COVID-19 test and golfer Bud Cauley, who played with McCarthy in the first round on Monday also withdrew. Matt Wallace, the third golfer in McCarthy’s group on Thursday, remained in the tournament and played. Wallace shot a 72 and had a two-round total of 142, six shots behind the cut of 136 or four-under-par.
The 36-hole cut was at 4-under 136 with 68 players in the field of 156 pros making it. One who missed the cut was three-time champion Bubba Watson (69-68), who missed the cut by a stroke.
Beginning on the tenth hole, Brendan Steele, who is tied for fourth at 9-under, birdied his last four holes to tie his career-low score with an 8-under 62. In nine starts here in Cromwell, he was finished in the top 25 seven times.
Collin Morikawa (72-71, 143) missed the cut by seven strokes. It ended his streak of consecutive made cuts to start his professional career at 22. It is the second-longest streak in the last 30 years. Tiger Woods had his first 25 cuts on the pro tour.
Published on Friday, June 26, 2020