CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Phil Mickelson has figured out the secret to the greens at Quail Hollow. Or maybe he just has had a lot of good bounces for two days.
Mickelson opened with a pair of 15-foot birdie putts, dropped in a 40-foot putt at the turn and made back-to-back birdies late in his second round Friday. He finished with 5-under 67 for a two-shot lead at 9-under 135 going into the weekend at the PGA Tour's Wells Fargo Championship.
Nick Watney, who played with Mickelson in the opening two rounds, had 70 and in a group at 7 under with George McNeill (68) and Scott Gardiner (67), a 37-year-old rookie who had missed eight straight cuts coming into the tournament.
First-round leader Rory McIlroy struggled with the speed of the greens — he felt they were much faster than Thursday — but rallied on the front nine with three birdies for 71 that had in a group of five at 6 under.
Quail Hollow, renowned for pristine conditions, has had everything go wrong this spring and wound up with putting surfaces that are mostly choppy, with brown patches where the grass has died. Two greens were replaced by sod last week.
Despite that, Mickelson has taken only 50 putts in two rounds. And the most staggering statistic of all? He hasn't missed from inside 10 feet.
"I think that the greens are putting very, very good, obviously, because I've putted them well," Mickelson said. "But with them being slower, we're able to putt them aggressively. We're able to take some of the break out without fear of racing it way by. And I've made a concerted effort to leave uphill putts, which has allowed me to putt even more aggressive and play even less break. And that's made a big difference in my putting."
Today figures to be a busier day than expected. A couple of late bogeys and one double bogey dropped the cut to 2-over 146, allowing more than a dozen players back into the tournament. That means there will be another cut today.
LPGA: Ariya Jutanugarn, 17, bounced back from three early bogeys with three birdies in a par 71 that kept her in the lead of the Kingsmill Championship at 7-under 135 after the second round at Williamsburg, Va. She was a shot ahead of Stacy Lewis and Angela Stanford, who had their second consecutive 68s, the best rounds of the day. Seminole's Brittany Lincicome (69) and Tampa resident Kristy McPherson (71) were 2 over. Tampa's Cindy LaCrosse (75) missed the cut at 4 over, as did Clearwater's Jennifer Gleason (79) at 10 over.
Champions: Mike Goodes shot 3-under 69 in wind that gusted to 30 mph to take a one-stroke lead over Gene Sauers after the first round of the Insperity Championship at the Woodlands, Texas. Only seven players in the 81-man field broke par on an unseasonably cold, blustery day.