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PEBBLE BEACH Mickelson opens up four-shot lead



Published: Sat, February 12, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Lefty is a tournament-record 15-under par after the second round.

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. (AP) -- Phil Mickelson looked as if he was headed for a runaway. He had to settle for another record Friday in the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

Coming off a course-record 62 at tough Spyglass Hill, Mickelson had more wild adventures that he somehow converted into birdies and pars before stalling on his back nine at Poppy Hills for a 5-under 67, giving him a four-shot lead over fellow southpaw Mike Weir.

Mickelson was at 15-under 129, breaking by two shots the 36-hole tournament record. The previous mark was set by Matt Gogel in 2001 and Pat Perez in 2002, neither of whom went on to win.

Lefty is a different breed of player, though, and he is picking up more confidence each round.

He had a four-shot lead going into the final round last week when he won in Phoenix, and his four-shot lead after 36 holes at Pebble is the largest of his career.

"It's different," Mickelson said of his role as the frontrunner. "But I enjoy it. I was able to get one more shot on the field."

And as always, he kept it entertaining.

Bad and good

Mickelson pulled his opening tee shot on No. 10 so badly that he had to take an unplayable lie, then pitch out sideways. That left him a 6-iron into the green, and he holed a 30-footer for par.

He hooked another tee shot on the par-5 12th, but it caromed off a tree and left him an opening for a 7-iron to the green and a simple two-putt for birdie.

Then came an 8-iron that he had to carve out of the woods for another unlikely birdie.

"I just cut it around the tree," Mickelson said. "It was not that big of a deal."

By the time he made the turn, he was 5-under-par for his round and had a six-shot lead. But he played the front nine at Poppy in even par with hardly any fireworks on a cool, damp afternoon with light rain that made scoring on all three courses a little tougher.

Weir, who has finished in the top four here the last two years, made an early charge to get to 10-under for the tournament, dropped two straight shots along the cliffs, then finished with three straight birdies, all of them from about 10 feet, for a 67 at Pebble Beach.

"I like the position I'm in," Weir said. "Spyglass is a tough test, and hopefully I can have a good round there and give myself a shot Sunday."

Kevin Sutherland had a 70 and Paul Goydos had a 68 at Pebble Beach to finish at 9-under 135, while Andrew Magee joined them with a 68 at Spyglass.

Another stroke back was Darren Clarke, playing for the first time in this tournament. He had a 66 at Pebble Beach after finishing with two birdies in the light rain.

Where's Vijay?

Defending champion Vijay Singh has some work to do -- not to become the sixth repeat champion at Pebble, but simply to get a tee time Sunday. Singh had a 40 on his second nine at Poppy Hills -- traditionally the easiest course in the rotation -- and had a second straight 73.

He was 17 shots out of the lead, and likely needed a 68 at Pebble Beach to make the cut.

Mickelson also heads to Pebble Beach, hopeful of extending his lead even more. He is coming off a five-shot victory at Phoenix, the largest margin of his career. Despite his tendency to make birdies, he was not surprised to hear that his four-shot lead was his largest after two rounds.

"Given my propensity to throw up high numbers, I'm not surprised," he said.




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