The Masters: Phil Mickelson excels tee to green, but rues ‘horrific putting’

Phil Mickelson declared he was “driving like a stallion”, but his “pathetic” putting is getting in the way of his challenge for a fourth Masters victory.

Mickelson is one of a number of veterans in the top half of the leaderboard, including record-breaking two-time champion Bernhard Langer who, at 63, became the oldest player in Masters history to make the halfway cut.

Three-time winner Mickelson, 13 years Langer’s junior, was delighted with both his ball-striking and his distance as he completed 36 holes in five under par, following an opening 69 with a two-under 70 that he felt should have been much better.

“I’m striking the ball exceptional, and I’m putting horrific,” said the left-hander. “And if I get that fixed this weekend, I’m going to make a run.

“I’m driving like a stallion, drove it over the trees on nine all the way down to the bottom, hit wedge into 17, wedge into 14. five-iron both days into the second. I mean, I’m driving the ball very well. I’m hitting the ball great, and I’m putting awful. I’ve been putting well this year, and if I get this fixed for the weekend, I’m going to make a run.

“I’m very frustrated and disappointed with the way I’ve putted. I’ve let eight, nine, 10 shots go on the greens, and it’s pathetic, and I’m going to fix that and hopefully make a run. You can’t make those mistakes, give those shots up in this field, in this competition.

“But we’ve got 36 more holes, and I’m playing well enough I struck it well enough to keep me in it despite probably being last in the field in putting. But I’m going to get that fixed for Saturday’s round.”

Langer, meanwhile, vowed to treat himself to a celebratory shandy after being told he had made history, with rounds of 68 and 73 leaving him at three under heading into the final 36 holes – the same score as Rory McIlroy.

“Well, it’s not easy to do it,” said the German. “There have been so many great players here before me, from Jack Nicklaus to Gary Player to all the greats that have competed here, and to be the oldest to make the cut, it’s certainly an achievement. Hopefully I get to play a few more years and enjoy this place.”

The champion of 1985 and 1993 has not made the cut in six of the last eight years at Augusta National, but asked if being at the tournament and playing well made him feel younger, he insisted it was quite the opposite.

“No, it actually makes me feel older when I play with these young guys and I see how far they hit it and how short I hit it. It makes me feel older, not younger,” said Langer.

“I like this golf course. I think I know how to get around it, even though I hit very long clubs. But it’s certainly not easy. It’s a long hitter’s place, always has been. I mean, why has Jack won six times and Tiger five times? Because they were the longest players in their era. That’s what this place has always catered to, let’s put it that way.”

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