After opening the season’s second major with a two-under 70 to sit three shots off the overnight lead then picking up a birdie at his second hole of the day, the 2005 winner dumped a 7-iron into the water with his approach two holes later.
Limiting the spillage to a bogey as he stiffed his fourth shot was huge in terms of how the rest of his day panned out as he came home in 31, five-under, for a 69 to move to five-under and share the lead at the halfway stage in the Wanamaker Trophy tussle.
“It was a really good one,” said Mickelson of that bogey at the 13th, having started his second circuit on the Pete Dye-designed Ocean Course at the 10th.
“I got a little bit aggressive with the 7-iron there and missed it in the wrong spot, but to only lose a shot (was important).
“You are going to make a lot of bogeys out here, but, if you can prevent the doubles, it’s an important thing.”
Mickelson birdied the second, fourth, fifth, seventh and ninth on his inward journey, rolling in a 22-footer to cap a satisfying day’s work. He attributed controlled iron play to his brother and caddie, Tim.
“Tim has really shined this week judging the flight and how much the wind is going to affect it,” he said, using his approach at the fourth as an example of that.
“It was 195 yards to the hole and if I could get 187-189 out of the flight, it was going to be about right. But we had 25-30 yards of hurt, so I had to hit that 210-215 yards,” said the 2013 Open champion of the shot he hit in there to around three feet.
“He’s done a great job judging the flight and we’ve hit a lot of iron shots that have been pin high because of it.”
Mickelson is bidding to become the first player to win a major at 50 or older. He’s admitted his main problem in recent years has been trying to stay focused on the golf course, but turning to meditation seems to be doing the trick.
“It’s a big thing for me,” he said. “Physically, I’ve been able to perform and hit the shots I’ve been wanting to hit as well as I ever have. But I haven’t been able to be as present and be as sharp mentally to visualise them as well
“I’ve been really working on that and it’s been a big part of me being able to pull off some of those shots.
“It’s just gotten more difficult as I’ve got older to focus for longer periods of time, so I’ve had to stretch it out and working your mind like a muscle and trying to elongate the amount of focus.
“I might go out an play 36, 45 holes to try to focus longer than just 18 . I’m able to focus longer during a round and, as I’ve been able to do that, I’m seeing my scores get progressively better.”