Phil Mickelson believes getting his putter “dialed in” is the key to landing a fourth Masters triumph this weekend and emulating Jack Nicklaus by claiming a Green Jacket at the age of 46.
The 2013 Open and Scottish Open is in the mix at the halfway stage at Augusta National, where a tasty leaderboard also includes Sergio Garcia, Rickie Fowler, Thomas Pieters, Fred Couples, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy.
“Man, I fought hard today,” said Mickelson after signing for a second-round 73, a mixed bag containing five birdies and six bogeys, to sit just four shots off the pace on level-par. Improve your golf game with wearable tech>>>
“It was a hard, difficult day,” added the left-hander. “I struggled a little bit with the putter today.
“Hopefully with calm conditions I’ll get that thing dialed in tomorrow because I’ve been putting really well.
“And, if I can have a good putting weekend, I’m going to have a good chance.”
Garcia, who is bidding to finally make the major breakthrough at the 74th attempt, sits in a four-way tie for the lead on four-under.
Alongside him on that mark are 2015 Scottish Open champion Rickie Fowler, his fellow American Charley Hoffman and big-hitting Belgian Thomas Pieters.
Europe’s star player as a rookie in last year’s Ryder Cup in Minnesota, Pieters is bidding to become the first player to win the Masters on their debut since Fuzzy Zoeller pulled it off in 1979.
“It’s a bit bold to say that you want to come here and win and then you don’t do it, and you look like a fool,” said Pieters as he tried not to get ahead of himself.
“As with any tournament, I just like to get in contention on Sunday afternoon, that’s all I want.”
Career Grand Slam-chasing Rory McIlroy is happy with his position after 36 holes in the 81st Masters.
He’s sitting in a share of 13th position, five shots behind the four co-leaders, after rounds of 72 and 73.
“I’m close enough,” insisted the four-time major winner. “I’m a little disappointed with what happened at the last there (hitting the flag with his approach and seeing his ball spin back off the green), but these things happen.
“If I can get off to a fast start tomorrow, a couple under through three, I’ll be right there.
“I feel like I’m playing well enough and I’m in a good frame of mind where I can go out there and attack and make some birdies.”
History has been made in this year’s Masters after Stewart Hagestad became the first US Mid Amateur to make the cut in the event.
Holders of that title had failed to make it to the weekend since an exemption was first offered in 1989 but Hagestad is sitting in a lofty joint-19th after impressive rounds of 74 and 73.
“I’m fired up to go share the moment with my family and my friends that are staying here,” said the 25-year-old who is a financial analyst in New York.
“As far as mid-amateurs go, I don’t yet consider myself one,” he added. “I’m in a very, very unique spot that I have the opportunity to play.”
Australian Curtis Luck, the world No 1, also survived the cut after a second-round 72, setting up an exciting weekend battle with Hagestad to finish as leading amateur.
Tiger Woods, a Masters absentee 20 years after his record-breaking win at Augusta National, could be back in the US Open in June.
That’s the view of Notah Begay, who went to Stanford University with Woods and is now an analyst for NBC and the Golf Channel.
“[The Masters] probably wouldn’t have been the best place for Tiger to start the year out after this most recent setback,” said Begay of Woods withdrawing after the first round of the Dubai Desert Classic in early February.
Speaking on The Rich Eisen Show in the US, he added: “I think we should probably look at maybe something just after the Players Championship (in May).”
The US Open takes place at Erin Hills in Wisconsin in mid-June.
Danny Willett is confident that he will soon be back on track despite seeing his reign as Masters champion end on a disappointing note.
The Englishman became the first title holder to miss the cut at Augusta National since Canadian Mike Weir in 2004 after starting his second round with an ugly 8 then missing a four-foot par putt at the last.
“It’s been a tricky 12 months,” admitted Willett of seeing his game suffer after becoming just the second Englishman after Nick Faldo to become Masters champion.
“We haven’t played great golf but, by the same token, if you look at the career we’ve had, we’ve not really had a slump in form in two years.
“We’ve had two fabulous years and then you have a little bit of a downturn and it feels like the world is coming to an end. But it’s not.”
A few months after being on the verge of quitting, Jamie McLeary has kick-started his career by winning the PGA EuroPro Tour Qualifying School.
The Lothians-based player closed with back-to-back 67s at Frilford Heath to win the card scramble for the third-tier circuit by two shots on 10-under-par 206.
“I was actually going to quit playing golf in October,” said McLeary. “I came off the European Tour and could not see myself getting any better.
“I was hitting it terrible but I have been working with my coach and since then I’ve noticed a change. My strategy it better, my patience is better.”
McLeary, a two-time Challenge Tour winner, claimed his victory despite an opening 72 at the Oxfordshire venue.
“I’ve been playing quite well for a couple of months, so I thought I’d come down and give it a shot, so I am ecstatic to get the win,” he added.
“It is good to win an event because it gives you confidence going forward.
“Today I didn’t hit the ball as well as the first two days, but, I still managed to shoot a good score and that’s down to my patience.”
Former Walker Cup player Michael Stewart was next best among the Scots to secure a category on the third-tier circuit, finishing joint-18th on on 212.