I’m a huge fan of Phil Mickelson, but I absolutely did not think he’s see a lead at Riviera—even after a convincing victory at Pebble Beach. To be sure, Phil had to do some work on the second day to record his 70. While missing most of the greens, he did the usual Mickelson magic, chipping in from off the green and famously holing it out from 110 with a wedge. There also were some improbably long putts. With anyone else, you would say it is luck. With Phil … as Gary Player said: “The more I practice, the luckier I get”
Still, I think Phil’s got to get the tee shots under control to win this weekend. He carded three bogeys, two birds and an eagle on Friday. Maybe he should take a page from his Pebble Beach playbook and scale it back a bit. And maybe do a little more work with Butch Harmon.
Some players still are finishing up Saturday morning, but a study of the leaderboard makes it apparent that the top won’t change. Phil is in first. He’ll play with Pat Perez Saturday, who is just one behind. Jimmy Walker, Matt Kuchar, Carl Petterson, Jarrod Lyle and Jonathan Byrd are all two behind in t-3.
Pat Perez had the round of the day, shooting a 65 to climb to second. Still, I would be surprised to see Perez finish first. It seems to me he often makes an appearance or two at the top of the leaderboard early in the season to no result. In fifteen years on tour, he has just one victory.
Sorry to see that Fred Couples won’t make the cut; nor will my Crowne Plaza Pro-Am partner Stuart Appleby. Those are two guys I always root for.
Riviera is one of my favorite courses to watch on television, and particularly the 18th hole, which I think is among the most photogenic finishing holes in golf. Riviera absolutely is on my short list of courses I’d like to play (if there’s a member out there reading this, I’d be on a plane tomorrow to play with you.).
Here are highlights from the first two rounds: