TROON, Scotland (AP) — On a rainy day at Royal Troon, Phil Mickelson finally ran into a bit of trouble.
He still managed to stay out front in the British Open.
After coming within a lipped-out putt of a major championship scoring record in the opening round, Mickelson had to scramble a bit to escape with a 2-under 69 on Friday.
He was at 10-under 132 midway through the tournament, heading to the weekend with a shot at becoming the oldest Open champion since Old Tom Morris in 1867.
Mickelson turned 46 last month. Morris was 46 years and 102 days old when he triumphed at nearby Prestwick 149 years ago.
Making the turn at the far end of the course, Mickelson was 3 under for the round, five shots clear of the field and looked on the verge of blowing it open. He nearly made a hole-in-one at No. 8 — the famed “Postage Stamp” hole — his ball rolling right up to the edge of the cup for a tap-in birdie, roughly the length of a postage stamp.
But, with the rain coming down harder, the inward nine was tougher on Mickelson. He narrowly missed a gorse bush at No. 12 and took his first bogey of the tournament. He made another at the 15th after driving into the rough and coming up 40 yards short of the green with his approach. He could’ve had a third bogey at the par-3 17th after dumping his tee shot into a deep bunker, but a brilliant sand wedge to 2 feet allowed him to save par.
It was a far cry from Thursday, when Mickelson didn’t come close to making bogey on his way to a record-tying 63. He could’ve been the first player to shoot 62 in a major championship, but a 16-foot birdie putt at the final hole lipped out, sending Mickelson’s caddie tumbling to the ground and Lefty grabbing his head in disbelief.
As Mickelson headed to the clubhouse to dry off, Henrik Stenson was his closest challenger. The Swede, looking to give his country its first major championship by a male golfer, turned in the best round of the morning starters with a 65 to close within one shot of the lead.
It was Stenson’s best round ever at the Open in his 12th appearance.
Mickelson already has five major titles, the most recent coming at the 2013 British Open.
Having already won the claret jug, he is more relaxed going into the weekend.
“It’s a lot easier having already held it,” Mickelson said. “Winning the Open was the greatest challenge of my career, and I’ve already done it. I would love nothing more than to add another one. But knowing I’ve already done it takes the pressure off.”
Mickelson was the eighth player to open a major with a 63. He became only the third to break par in the next round.
Among the other early finishers, Soren Kjeldsen of Denmark was three shots off the lead after a 68, while defending Open champion Zach Johnson was in the mix again with a 70 that left him five shots behind.
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