KIAWAH ISLAND, South Carolina (Reuters) -Six birdies earned five-time major winner Phil Mickelson a one-stroke clubhouse lead as brutal and blustery conditions tested the early starters at the Ocean Course in the second round of the PGA Championship on Friday.
Mickelson, bidding to become the oldest major winner, started on the back nine but a trio of bogeys left him at two over after nine holes.
The American came alive in the latter half of the second round, carding three-under par 69 after draining a 22-foot-plus putt for birdie on the par-four ninth as he closed out the day to wild applause.
“I had to be patient but I was able to make a few birdies there,” the 44-time PGA Tour winner, who has not won a major since 2013, told reporters.
“I’m heading into the weekend with an opportunity.”
The 50-year-old will become the oldest major winner if he can fend off a stacked field of competitors and survive wind-whipped conditions that have derailed others, with his brother on the bag.
“My brother has been doing a phenomenal job judging the wind,” said Mickelson. “Making that kind of adjustment is very difficult to do and he’s been doing a phenomenal job.”
A near-flawless Branden Grace (71) appeared ready to end the day with the lead himself, playing to perfection right up until the par-three 17, where his tee shot splashed into the water and he suffered a double bogey.
The South African then settled for bogey on 18, finishing the round two strokes back from Lefty.
Elsewhere on the day, Canadian Corey Conners’ (75) overnight lead evaporated as he stumbled into five bogeys in the first six holes starting off the back nine, with four birdies the only remnant of his effortless, five-under par first-round performance.
(Reporting by Andrew Both; writing by Amy Tennery; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Pritha Sarkar)