Lefty was even par after 36 holes, but had started to make a move on moving day. Birdies on number 3, 6 and 9 had him out in 34, and then a solid three on 10 had him 3-under for the championship. After Mickelson found the cup on 13, and was 4-under, people started to take notice.
"Phil might have a chance here," was the consensus around the Old Course, especially with a par-5 coming up, but that was when Phil became Phil at the British Open.
[Photos: More Mickelson at the British Open]
He couldn't birdie 14, and then hit one of the worst iron shots possibly of his career on the 16th, hooking it out of bounds nearly 30 yards right of his intended line. To totally understand how bad that tee shot was is to have played the 16th, and to understand the line that these players are taking when they decide on iron off the tee. Phil admitted after the round to Wendy Nix of ESPN, "I don't know what I was thinking" on that tee shot.
Mickelson would make double-bogey there, and after a great tee shot on the 17th, Phil did what a lot of the players are doing this Saturday, going over the green and up against the wall. He barely had a swing, but was able to play a gutsy bump into the hill on the back of the green, but couldn't convert the par putt, and had to settle for a bogey. Three-over on 16 and 17. Goodbye Claret Jug.
Phil did make birdie on 18 to post a 2-under 70, but it still brings up the constant question of Mickelson at this tournament. Why can't he play this thing? It's a golf course that really sets up great for left-handers, since you can play a controlled cut and be in the fairway all day long, yet Mickelson never seems to do well here. If he makes par on 16 and 17, he's 5-under for the week and within earshot of whatever the leaders will be.
Now, it will be just another long flight back to California for Phil, without an extra suitcase holding some hardware.