Sean O’Hair brushes off raised expectations after fine 69

Phil Mickelson hits an iron off the second tee during his second round in the Northern Trust. Picture: The Record via AP.
Phil Mickelson hits an iron off the second tee during his second round in the Northern Trust. Picture: The Record via AP.
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Sean O’Hair did well enough over 36 holes at The Northern Trust to keep alive his hopes of going home to Aronimink for more than just a member-guest tournament.

O’Hair overcame an irritating three-putt early in his round by driving the 12th green on his next hole for an easy birdie on his way to a two-under-par 69, giving him the early lead last night over a pack of contenders that include Phil Mickelson, who birdied his opening four holes before dropping a few shots late in his round of 69.

O’Hair is a member at Aronimink, which is just outside Philadelphia and is hosting the third FedEx Cup playoff event for the top 70 players. O’Hair is at No 112 in the FedEx Cup and has a lot of work to do.

“Just got to play some good golf to get to Aronimink, and I think the only way I can do that is just take it one day at a time and make it count,” he said.

O’Hair has been around this game too long – at age 37, he has been a pro for 20 years – to realise there is no point in getting excited. He still has the weekend ahead of him, and Mickelson and plenty of others right behind.

O’Hair was at 7-under 135, with half of the field – Tiger Woods included – playing in the afternoon.

Mickelson kept the ball in play and that make birdies easier. His fourth straight birdie came at No 12, the reachable par 4, where Mickelson missed a ten-foot eagle attempt. He got a little wild off the tee toward the end of his round that cost him bogeys, and then closed with a 20-foot birdie putt for his second straight 68.

Mickelson is in good shape to make it through to the Tour Championship for only the second time in the last five years. It’s the week after the Tour Championship that matters to him – the Ryder Cup. Mickelson failed to make the team for the first time since 1993, though he would seem to be a reasonable choice as a wild card. USA captain Jim Furyk makes three picks after the second FedEx Cup playoff event next week at the TPC Boston.

“This started out to be a great year, and I want to finish it off right,” said Mickelson, who has only one top ten since his victory in Mexico in early March. “And usually when I have a bit of a lull in the summer, I play well in the playoffs. So I expect to have a good first two events and try to make it really easy for Captain Furyk.”

Tony Finau and Patrick Cantlay, also trying to make an impression as a potential pick, each shot 67 and joined Mickelson at 6-under 136, along with Peter Uihlein (68) and Adam Hadwin (65).

Jordan Spieth didn’t make up much ground. He wasted a good start with a triple bogey on his tenth hole (No 18) when he drove into the trees on the left and had to take a penalty drop. That wasn’t the biggest problem. He ended it by going to sweep in a 6-inch putt and stubbing his putter, moving the ball only a few inches.