Phil Mickelson's outstanding second round 66 grabbed the
headlines on a fascinating second day at Pebble Beach - yet it wasn't what
caught Bunker Mentality's eye.
Lefty's round was, to paraphrase the Masterchef judges, an
absolute delight, and BM thrilled to every radar-guided iron and bumpy
green-defying putt. Only his purple polo shirt - as vividly purple as a slice of
beetroot soaked in Ribena - took the edge off our viewing pleasure.
But even more impressive than seeing one of the best players
in the world firing on all cylinders was watching two more of the world's best players
show incredible determination.
Step forward, Paul Casey and Ian Poulter. Both came to the
par-5 14th early in their second rounds; both hit good shots to the green; both
saw unkind kicks throw the ball off down one of several slopes, leaving
nigh-on-impossible recovery shots that left top-class professionals look as clueless
as Sunday hackers. Both ended up with treble-bogey eights
A few years ago, both players would likely have imploded
catastrophically after a set-back like that. Casey did so when in contention to
win the 2008 Masters, for example, while Ian Poulter has been rapped over the
knuckles for abusing marshals and attacking tee markers in frustration.
But instead of seeing them go to pieces, the pair showed how
they have matured from arrogant underachievers into a golfers who are genuinely
two of the very best players in the world.
They took the mishap on the chin, picked themselves up, and demonstrated
the sort of patience that would have made St Francis of Assisi stroke his beard
in admiration as they calmly worked their ways back into contention.
An absolutely fantastic effort, and hearty pats on the back
to both. Let's hope they can go on from here to challenge for the title over
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Implosion of the day:
Korea's YE Yang, the reigning US PGA champion, was riding high on the
leaderboard after going out in one under par on Friday. But then he exploding
in a manner so violent that he made the Buncefield oil refinery look like a fautly
disposable barbecue: his nightmare run of eight holes from the 10th included two
treble bogeys, a double bogey and five bogeys as he dropped 13 shots in eight
holes! He then did heroically well to par the last and thus ensure he broke 50 on the back nine...
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Sly grin of the day:
After his round Tiger Woods made a confident prediction that none of the late
starters would be able to match the 68 put produced by early starters Ernie Els
and Graeme McDowell. In doing so he was actually explaining away the fact that
he struggled himself on Thursday afternoon; and somehow, his slightly haughty
prediction made it all the more pleasurable watching his arch-nemesis Phil Mickelson make Pebble Beach look as
simple as a maths test for three-year-olds.
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Round of the day:
As good as Mickelson's round and the 68s of Graeme McDowell and Ernie Els were, they are seasoned
professionals with years of experience under their belts. But 21-year-old Scott Langley is not. The amateur, who
won the St Louis qualifying event, opened with a solid (for an amateur 75), and
looked set to be heading home early after two bogeys in his opening nine on
But then he quite simply went ballistic, making four birdies
in the next five holes, then adding another on the 17th against a single back
nine bogey to record a 69 that secures him a spot for the weekend. He's just
two over par, and in contention. What a US Open debut!
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Shot of the day: Ernie Els looked set to drop a shot on
the ninth, his final hole of the day, and spoil a great round of 68. His tee
shot was so poor it left him in deep rough, the ball below his feet, and some
70 yards behind playing partners Lee Westwood and Tiger Woods with over 200
yards to the green. His extraordinary three-quarter swing escape shot was a
miracle, though, running through a five-yard gap before trundling up to the
green and leaving him a great chance at another birdie. Outstanding.
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Predictions of the
day: With 30 or so players within half a dozen shots of the lead, and cool,
soft conditions set to continue on a tricky course, this US Open weekend is about
as unpredictable as golf tournaments get. Any of the players could very, very
easily shoot anything between 65 and 75.
So with that in mind it can only be time to make a series of
- Tiger Woods will
continue to not quite fire on all cylinders, and will finish tied for 12th or
- Lee Westwood will
shoot in the 60s either on Saturday, or Sunday, or both, and either way will be
in the top five before missing a crucial putt on the 72nd hole.
- Ryo Ishikawa will
falter on Saturday, but shoot the lights out on Sunday to go close.
- And just when it
looks like a European will finally win the US Open again, home favourite Dustin
Johnson will sneak up on the rails to become the US Open champion.