The front nine at Poppy Hills finally cooled off Phil Mickelson.
Mickelson birdied five of his first nine holes but played par golf coming in to take a four-shot lead at 15-under 129 after Friday’s second round of the $5.3m (€4.1m) Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
Starting on the back nine, Mickelson looked like he was on his way to another historic round after shattering the record at the Spyglass Hill course with a 10-under-par 62 on Thursday. In the second round, the defending Masters champion carded a pair of pars before firing five birdies in seven holes.
The 1998 champion here, Mickelson had more trouble on his final nine. “Lefty” had his first bogey of the tournament on the par-three sixth and did not have a birdie until the par-five ninth to complete a round of five-under 67.
“I really didn’t have great chances. It was playing a lot harder,” Mickelson said.
“I thought the front side, which was my back, played a lot harder. When the pins are elevated on the top shelf, it’s much harder to get the ball close.”
While he didn’t set another course record, Mickelson was able to rewrite some tournament history, breaking the 36-hole scoring mark by two shots. Matt Gogel (2001) and Pat Perez (2002) shared the old record, although neither went on to win the tournament.
“The record depends on the weather and so forth. If we have good conditions we are going to shoot low,” Mickelson said.
“I’m just trying to win. I would love to win this tournament.”
Canadian Mike Weir, another lefthander and former Masters champion, fired a 67 at Pebble Beach and is second at 11-under 133. He finished strong with birdies on his final three holes to rebound from an erratic front nine.
Weir started with birdies on three of his first four holes but finished with bogeys on the eighth and ninth. He started the back nine with six consecutive pars before getting hot to close out the round.
“I played solid all the way through till the last three and then had a great finish for the day,” Weir said.
“I like the position I’m in. Spyglass is a tough test and hopefully I can have a good round there and give myself a shot Sunday.”
Mickelson is picking up where he left off last week, when he shot a 60 en route to a five-stroke win at the FBR Open. It was his first victory since the 2004 Masters and the largest margin of victory of his career.
Kevin Sutherland, Paul Goydos and Andrew Magee are tied for third at nine-under 135. Magee and Goydos each shot 68 and Sutherland a 70.
Darren Clarke and Charles Howell III headline a group of five tied for sixth at 136. Clarke carded a 66 and Howell, who entered the day tied for second, shot a 71.
“I played not too bad today, a little bit better than yesterday,” Clarke said.
“I had a lot of good shots and am pleased with my round.”
The tournament is being played on three courses – Spyglass Hill, Pebble Beach Golf Links and Poppy Hills, all par-72s. Pebble Beach will host the final round.
Already with a win under his belt this year, top-ranked Vijay Singh is making the first in a long line of title defences. He followed up a disappointing 73 at Spyglass on Thursday with an identical round at Poppy Hills on Friday and is tied for 129th.
Singh’s win here last year was his first of the season and he went on to win nine times, including his second major at the PGA Championship. However, he is in danger of missing the cut for the first time since the Buick Invitational almost a year ago.