Phil Mickelson, the top-ranked golfer in the field at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial, has lived up to that status through the first two rounds of the tournament as he sits alone atop the leaderboard at 7-under 133 with a one-shot lead over Matt Kuchar, Brian Gay and Johnson Wagner.
“It was a good first two rounds,” Mickelson said after his round Friday. “Today, I didn’t strike it like I did yesterday, but I putt it probably the best I have all year. That was certainly encouraging. I made a lot of key putts, especially ones for par around the horseshoe area.”
On the three holes of the horseshoe, No. 3, 4 and 5, the second-ranked player in the world sank two 11-foot putts and a 9-footer.
The putting wasn’t the only aspect of the short game where Mickelson excelled. He hit into sand traps six times during his round and saved par all six times.
Mickelson started on the back nine and was 1-over through his first eight holes.
But he responded with a run of three straight birdies to get him to 7-under and he parred the remaining seven holes to stay there.
Kuchar started the day at even, but birdied the first four holes and finished with a 6-under 64, which tied for the lowest round of the day.
“Any time you shoot a round like a 6-under par, you’ve made some good putts,” Kuchar said. “And to start the round with four birdies, I made some sizeable putts there. It was fun to see the ball go in.”
Gay had a bogey-free round with birdies on five of his final 12 holes to shoot a 5-under 65.
Wagner, who led after the first round of the tournament, started on the back nine and made double bogey on No. 15. He rebounded with a birdie on No. 2 to pull within a shot of Mickelson.
Mark Brooks of Fort Worth had an up-and-down round with seven birdies and five bogeys. He finished his round on a high note with birdies on two of his final three holes to finish at 5-under and in a six-way tie for fifth place, which includes former champion Corey Pavin.
Geoff Ogilvy, ranked seventh in the world, tied Kuchar with the best round of the day with a 6-under 64, which moved him into a tie for 11th place at 4-under.
Jim Furyk, Steve Stricker and K.J. Choi, the other Top-10 players in the Colonial field, missed the cut.