OAKMONT, Pa. – His left wrist is feeling much better, so Phil Mickelson took a shot at the U.S. Open leaderboard.
Way too many shots, as it turned out.
Mickelson, looking much more confident and comfortable a day after laboring his way to a 4-over 74 at Oakmont, tried making a push as the second round began Friday. He birdied twice in three holes on the front nine -- or two more than he had all day Thursday -- and flashed one of those "Here I come" looks after dropping a 15-footer on No. 4.
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Instead, it was there he goes again.
That mysterious Mickelson who frequently surfaces during majors -- the one capable of making a big move in a moment or falling out of contention with a sudden thud -- was back again.
As quickly as he picked up two shots to par, closing within four shots of leader Nick Dougherty, Mickelson gave them back and more with a double bogey at No. 7, bogeys at No. 8 and 9 and another double at No. 10. It was a six-shot swing in four holes.
In an instant, he brought back memories of his final-hole collapse at Winged Foot a year ago, when he gave away his one-shot lead and the U.S. Open with one terrible hole. On the 479-yard No. 7, he drove into the rough left of the fairway, took a penalty shot when his second shot landed in a narrow hazard, hacked on to 25 feet and two-putted.
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He got into more trouble by driving into a bunker at No. 8. On No. 9, his 40-foot putt rolled off the tilted green, forcing him to chip to 5 feet for bogey. Until his ghastly four-hole stretch, Mickelson had gone 14 consecutive holes without a bogey.
Again, the subplot of a U.S. Open became the misadventures of Mickelson. Perhaps he got a little too daring after waking up Friday with much less discomfort in his inflamed left wrist.
The wrist felt more like a bruise when touched, instead of the radiating pain he felt the past week, according to his trainer, Jim Weathers.
"Now it's bearable," Weathers said.
Now if only his golf game was.
Mickelson wasn't the only one taking a second-round tumble. With sunny skies hardening Oakmont's fast-again greens, scoring conditions weren't as favorable as they were Thursday morning, when both Dougherty (2-under 68) and Angel Cabrera (69) shot the day's only scores in the 60s. Dougherty and Cabrera weren't scheduled to start their second rounds until Friday afternoon.
The USGA issued this thinly veiled warning before play started Friday: "Greens are back to their practice round speeds after a day of slightly slower speeds due to rain."
In other words, good luck. If only Dougherty and Cabrera were in the 60s at Oakmont with the greens softer than usual, the temperatures moderate and a cooling breeze blowing through, what will the scores be by Saturday? By Sunday?
"We are in for a long week," Vijay Singh said.
For Sergio Garcia (79), Shaun Micheel (78), two-time champion Retief Goosen (76), Masters winner Zach Johnson (76) and frequent contender Colin Montgomerie (76), it's already been a long week. Despite scores so high they would already be out of it in most tournaments, Tiger Woods offered some encouragement.
"You know if you shoot 3, 4, 5 over par, you're still in the tournament and you've got to hang in there," said Woods, whose 1-over 71 Thursday left him three behind Dougherty.
Dougherty needed only 11 putts on the back nine, then joked how easy Oakmont is. He quickly realized his mistake.
"Goodness, I shouldn't have said that," he said. "No, absolutely not. The course is barbaric."
Cabrera (69) owned the only other score under par, with the long-driving Bubba Watson and Jose Maria Olazabal at even-par 70. Woods, Ben Curtis, returning champion Geoff Ogilvy, Jim Furyk and 51-year-old Fred Funk were among those at 71.
"Imagine if we don't get any rain and the greens get firmer and firmer by this weekend, it's going to be difficult out there," Olazabal said.
Going to get difficult? What is it now? David Toms led at 3 under at one point Thursday, only to finish at 72 after bogeys on five of his last six holes.
"Even in a major like Augusta, every other difficult major we play, you probably are going to have one or two shots where you can take off," Woods said. "It's not that hard of a shot. You can close your eyes and probably hit it either in the fairway or on the greens, and it's an easy shot. On this golf course there are none, and no easy birdies."
No doubt it didn't help that only a dozen or so in the field have tournament experience at Oakmont, which hadn't hosted a U.S. Open since 1994 -- the year before Woods began playing in the national championship. Once the leaders experience all of Oakmont's nuances, and the greens that tilt like a miswired pinball machine, maybe they'll be more comfortable.
Or maybe not.