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Kevin Currie, Golf Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - It's tough to say that Phil Mickelson was overlooked coming into the 111th U.S. Open, but he was only in contention twice in 13 worldwide starts this year.
Mickelson, a four-time major champion, has famously coughed up the lead at the U.S. Open before. This weekend, he'll enter the third round an unthinkable 12 strokes behind Rory McIlroy.
Will Phil the thrill make an appearance this weekend?
God knows, NBC hopes so.
With Tiger resting at home and McIlroy owning a healthy lead, most causal fans will stay away because routs can surely get boring.
The fact that Mickelson is only 12 shots back is a testament to how well he can scramble his way around a tough golf course.
The left-hander has hit just 13-of-28 fairways through two rounds and only 21- of-36 greens to this point.
Mickelson's deficit could have been as little as nine, if a gutsy play on the 18th didn't fall into the water left of the green.
After driving into the left trees, Mickelson sliced a shot through the trees that was tracking towards to the putting surface. Unfortunately, there was too much slice on his ball and it rolled off the left side of the fairway, down a slope and into a pond.
Mickelson, like his playing partner McIlroy, double-bogeyed the 18th to fall to plus-one for the championship.
"It was a disappointing finish with that double, but I'm still struggling," admitted Mickelson, who won the Houston Open the week before the Masters.
After an opening-round 74, Mickelson climbed to even-par with three birdies in a four-hole span from the fifth. After a bogey on 11, he birdied 14 and 16 to get into red figured at minus-one.
Mickelson and McIlroy both found the left rough off the 18th tee, but Mickelson's was so far left he had a flat lie on trampled grass. After he cut his shot into the pond short and left of the green, McIlroy pulled his into the same drink.
The 41-year-old Mickelson posted a two-under 69 to get to plus-one for the championship, but was still looking for answers after his round.
"I was able to shoot under par today, I was still struggling with it. Rather than go work on it, I think I'm going to try to figure out what it is I need to work on first, and then get back to the range."
Knowing Mickelson, he'll figure it out.
But will the fix be enough for him to cut into McIlroy's margin? That depends as much on McIlroy as it does on Mickelson, but we know Phil will go for broke as often as needed to make it happen.
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