Sunday, 16 June 2013

Mickelson, Horschel stay on top at US Open


ARDMORE (PENNSYLVANIA) FOUR-TIME major champion Phil Mickelson and second- time major starter Billy Horschel remained tied for the lead late in the second round of the US Open on Saturday as challengers faded.

The storm-hit golf showdown at Merion, thrown off schedule after play was halted for more than four hours on Thursday, continued in perfect conditions with the cut expected late in the morning ahead of an afternoon third round.

Mickelson, a five-time US Open runner-up still chasing the elusive trophy, and fellow American Horschel, who missed the cut at the 2006 US Open in his only prior major start, set the overnight pace at one-under 139 for 36 holes.

England’s Luke Donald and Justin Rose and American Steve Stricker were also in the clubhouse just one stroke back on 140.

England’s Ian Poulter, one off the lead with four holes to finish when the darknesshalted round resumed Saturday, stumbled with a bogeys at the par-4 16th and 18th to finish on 142 after back-to-back rounds of 71.

Taiwan amateur Pan Cheng-Tsung, showing poise at age 21, was two-under for the round and level par overall after nine holes Friday. He was the closest threat still on the course, one off the lead with with five holes to play.

Americans Charley Hoffman, Jerry Kelly and Michael Kim each returned two shots off the pace but fell back with early bogeys. Kim made his at the fourth and fifth holes, Kelly at the 14th and 15th and Hoffman at 14 and 16.

World number one Tiger Woods, a 14-time major champion chasing the alltime record of 18 majors won by Jack Nicklaus, stood on 143 in his bid for a recordtying fourth US Open crown.

But Woods has never won any title when over par after 36 holes. Nor has he won a major when he was not in the lead after 54 holes, making his upcoming third round even more crucial.

Among those with Woods just four off the lead were world number two Rory McIlroy, the 2011 US Open and 2012 PGA Championship winner, and South Africa’s Ernie Els, a twotime US Open winner and the reigning British Open champion.

Mickelson sank a 25-foot birdie putt at the 18th hole Friday, his only birdie in a round of 72, to match Horschel for the lead.

“It was a nice way to finish,” Mickelson said. “I fought hard to stay in there and hit a lot of good quality shots. Made a bunch of good pars.” Mickelson, a three-time Masters champion who won another major at the 2005 PGA Championship, finished second at the US Open in 1999, 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2009 but appears primed to charge at the title that has so long eluded him.

“It’s fun having a chance heading into the weekend,” he said. “I’m very excited about the opportunity this weekend.” Horschel fired a 67 on Friday, becoming the first player to reach all 18 greens in regulation in a round at the US Open since the statistic was first kept in 1992.

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