SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Phil Mickelson made it to the weekend in the Phoenix Open, a week after withdrawing at Torrey Pines because of back pain.
The defending champion shot a 4-under 67 in his afternoon round Friday at cool and breezy TPC Scottsdale, leaving him eight strokes behind leaders Bubba Watson and Matt Jones.
Watson and Jones were 12 under. Watson followed his opening 64 with a 66, and Jones had his second straight 65 – both in calmer conditions in the morning.
The 43-year-old Mickelson felt soreness in his back two weeks ago in Abu Dhabi, and pulled out of his hometown event at Torrey Pines after making the 36-hole cut. He flew to Georgia to see back specialist Tom Boers and was told his facet joints locked up.
McIlroy leads at Dubai: Rory McIlroy birdied his last hole to keep the lead to himself halfway through the Dubai Desert Classic.
Meanwhile, playing partner Tiger Woods carded a 1-over 73 to drop into a tie for 44th. He kept his humor, at least.
In joining fellow Masters champions Mark O’Meara and Fred Couples in hosting a junior golf clinic on the Emirates Club practice range, Woods told a large crowd, “I was on so many parts of the golf course today that I got to meet so many people, signed so many autographs out there, and gave a lot of balls away.
“But seriously, I was just hitting it sideways.”
While Woods was at 3 under, two above a cut line which removed Ernie Els, John Daly, Jose Maria Olazabal and O’Meara, McIlroy was riding an adventurous round of five birdies against three bogeys to finish on 11 under.
His lead was cut in half to one shot over European Tour-based American Brooks Koepka, who birdied his opening three holes in a 65 to move to 10 under.