AUGUSTA, Ga. – Guess who is in the middle of the pack at the 74th Masters? The Big Lefty, two-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson, that's who.
Mickelson shot 71 late Friday afternoon to go with his opening 67. At the midway point of the tournament, he finds himself trailing only Englishmen Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter at a place where he has produced magic before.
That he's playing well at Augusta National is no big surprise: In addition to winning twice, he's been in the top five six times. However, he has yet to show much form heading into the year's first major, building little to no momentum on the West Coast, Florida swing and a single start in Houston.
However, here at Augusta, he has added confidence, and he said late Friday he's putting better than he has in a long time. He nearly punctuated his round by making a 60-footer from the front of the 18th green, the ball crashing into the back of the cup but deciding to stay out.
"Yeah, I tried to move the hole there," he said. "I was fortunate."
On the penultimate hole, he hit a short iron to 6 feet and made the birdie to get to 6 under.
"There is nothing like being in contention heading into the weekend at Augusta National," said Mickelson, who won his last green jacket in 2006 when he edged Ernie Els. "There's no better feeling in the game. There's nothing you dream of more. I'm within two shots. I'm playing very well, and I feel like I'm right on the edge."
"I've been rolling the ball as well as I have in a long time ... I have a nice, tight track on it and they're rolling out very good. As soon as those 12- and 15-footers start to fall instead of catching the lips, I feel I have a really low round in me."
This could be a very special weekend for Mickelson. His mother, Mary, who has been fighting cancer, followed him around at Augusta National on Friday; Phil's wife, Amy, also battling breast cancer, has been camped in Augusta this week with the couple's three children. It's the first time all the Mickelsons have been together at a tournament since last spring at The Players.
Wow. What a Sunday celebration THIS could be.