It’s clear Mickelson is not confident with where things are.
After Thursday’s opening round, he talked about reconfiguring his eye alignment over the ball to get a better view of putts. And at the tail end of last week’s FedEx St. Jude Classic, he opted to change to a claw grip on his putts. He stayed with that approaching coming to Pinehurst with a goal, on greens he expected to be fast and treacherous, of having “a little bit lighter grip pressure to create a softer roll so that I get some of the hit out of it.”
“I just have been a little bit too poppy, if you will,” Mickelson had said Tuesday. “I've been popping at it and not making a long kind of smooth, brush stroke.”
The claw grip, Mickelson insisted would only be temporary, a push to “get the feel and flow back.”
But he started transitioning back to his normal putting grip and stroke Friday and yet neither the feel nor the flow are back. Now he sits in a group in 33rd place at 3 over.
And even after making early birdie putts at the second and third holes Friday, Mickelson couldn’t sustain the momentum.
“It’s a frustrating thing for me,” Mickelson said. “It’s a very important part of the game. … Whenever you putt and you make short ones, you make those 5- or 6-footers and you’re running a couple 20-footers in, the game feels easy.”
“The hole looks like a thimble to me right now,” Mickelson said. “I’m having a hard time finding it.”
6) One group of heavyweights is splitting up after two days playing together.
Brendon DeJonge positioned himself up the leaderboard through the first two rounds with scores of 68 and 70, pushing him into a current five-way tie for fifth, eight shots back of Kaymer. DeJonge played the first two rounds as part of one of the tournament’s hard-to-miss threesomes, joining Kevin Stadler and Shane Lowry in a group that was a bit, well, plumper than the others.
It’s no secret that the UGSA likes to get creative with its groupings to produce interesting and entertaining subplots. So everyone could read between the lines of what the intent was in pairing the 230-pound DeJonge with Stadler (250 pounds) and Lowry (225).
In comments to the Golf Channel earlier in the week, Lowry admitted taking a bit of offense to the grouping.
“I think it’s very cheeky of the USGA to do what they’ve done,” he said. “I don’t think it’s fair to the three of us. It’s a mockery, to be honest.”
Stadler called the move “mean and insensitive” and accused the USGA of “invoking their 5-year-old sense of humor.”
DeJonge was less rankled.
“I was actually pretty amused by it,” he said.
Stadler’s two-day total of 5-over 145 slid him just inside the top 60 cut line. Lowry, at 6 over, is headed home.
For the record, with weekend pairing determined by score, DeJonge will go off at 2:52 p.m. local time Saturday with the 190-pound Bradley at his side. Stadler, at 10:06 a.m., gets 200-pound Clayton Rask.
7) The USGA got crafty with the tees at the third hole, then buckled in to watch how things would unfold on the short part 4.