Eurosport - Fri, 18 Jun 21:17:00 2010
Phil Mickelson lit up a gloomy day at Pebble Beach with a stunning second-round 66 to vault into contention at the US Open.
The left-hander's pyrotechnics saw him finish in a tie for second place on a one-under-par aggregate of 141, two shots behind half-way leader Graeme McDowell and alongside Ernie Els, Dustin Johnson and Ryo Ishikawa.
McDowell and Els shone among the early starters with superb rounds of 68, while Pebble Beach specialist Johnson - twice a winner of the AT&T National Pro-Am at the course - produced a 70 that could have been even lower had his putting been better.
Japanese teenager Ishikawa - who shot a closing 58 to win a tournament in Japan earlier this season - was equally impressive in his nerveless round of 70, an outstanding performance from the youngest player in the field at age 18.
But the day belonged, indisputably, to Mickelson. The world number two had not managed a single birdie in his opening round of 75, but he picked up five birdies in his opening eight holes in an incredible display of shotmaking and putting.
A bogey from the sand at the ninth was his only blemish of the day, and was quickly off-set with another birdie on the 11th. More precise iron play yielded chance after chance on the closing stretch, but his luck on the fast, bumpy greens ran out as he parred his way in from the 12th.
McDowell made the most of the better conditions enjoyed by the early starters to lead the championship going into the weekend. He started and finished with bogeys, but clever approach play left him plenty of the easier, uphill putts as he picked up six birdies during his 68.
South Africa's Els was equally impressive in his 68, a smooth round in which he always looked in control.
The Big Easy fired birdies on the 11th, 13th, 18th, 4th and 7th against bogeys on the holes that have been ranked toughest so far this week, the 14th and 17th, to finish one under par going into the final two rounds.
England's Paul Casey got off to a nightmarish start after a treble-bogey eight on his fifth hole, the par-5 14th, but fought back with some outstanding putting to defy his shaky shotmaking just as he had in his opening round.
He ended up with a round of 73 to add to his opening 69, leaving him on level par going into the weekend alongside a group including German veteran Alex Cejka, who fired a 72, and Zimbabwe's Brendon De Jonge, who reached four under par at one point before slipping back with four bogeys in his final 11 holes.
Casey's fellow Englishman Ian Poulter endured similar misery on the 14th, but like Casey fought back patiently to get himself back into the tournament. He made no more bogeys and picked up three shots after the treble bogey to get himself in at one over par for the tournament after a 73 to follow his opening 70.
There was more disappointment for Tiger Woods, however, as he struggled to post a one-over-par round of 72.
The world number got off to a promising beginning, starting on the 10th and quickly producing his first two birdies of the tournament on the 11th and 14th holes.
But wayward tee shots led to bogeys on the 12th, 17th, 2nd and 3rd as he slumped to five over par, looking in danger of missing the cut.
Woods found his range again towards the end of the round, birdieing the 7th and going close on the 6th and 8th as he just about kept himself in contention on four over par.
Lee Westwood, playing alongside Woods, went one better with a 71 to finish on three over par, but Rory McIlroy saw his US Open challenge crumble to pieces after a 77 that left him 10 over, missing the cut line by three shots.Toby Keel / Eurosport
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