Phil Mickelson gets a bunch of red numbers, then gives ‘em back

Jay Busbee

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Sometimes Sawgrass gives you gifts like a jolly, generous Santa Claus, and sometimes Sawgrass takes them away, like a drunken mall Santa Claus catching you in the parking lot after closing time.

Phil Mickelson carded one of the more mirror-image rounds you'll see this year, starting his round with an opening 31 (he started at tee 10) and then limping home with an ugly 40. While his early holes featured three birdies and an eagle, once he made the turn, the wheels jumped the curb.

Mickelson missed fairways and greens throughout his second nine, carding four bogeys and no birdies. He finished with a 1-under 71, exactly the same score as Thursday and a far decline from the 5-under and tie for fifth place that he briefly held during the round.

"[T]his was a day I should be right up there on top within striking distance," Mickelson said, "and now I've got to go out and shoot something low 60's tomorrow to get back into it."

[Related: PGA Commish: 'Ludicrous' that tour would pressure Tiger to play]

One of the reasons that you see so many older guys like Mark O'Meara and David Toms playing well this weekend is that TPC Sawgrass is a shotmaker's heaven, a place where straightforward tee-fairway-green golf will pay big dividends.

That doesn't work so well for a guy like Mickelson, who loves high-risk, high-reward recovery shots; for him, tee-fairway-green often means hitting it into another fairway entirely before getting it onto the green.

"When you hit fairways and you hit greens, you can score low here," Mickelson noted with Maddenesque insight. "And the front nine I did that, and when you start missing it, you get penalized. So it seems like it's a pretty fair test based on risk/reward. If you play well, you score well, and if you don't, you don't." Yeah, that's generally how it goes.

Mickelson will make the cut just fine, but he's got a long way to go to even get within sight of the leaders. Still, the guy plays best when the pressure of leading is off, so who knows? Maybe he'll be more comedy than tragedy on the weekend.

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