Nobody puts Lefty in a corner.
Not even the world's longest major tournament course – at its windswept, hostile and unforgiving best over the opening two days of the 103rd US PGA Championship at Kiawah Island – that felt as much of a torture chamber for the game's finest talent as the infamous Chambers Bay set-up at the US Open in 2015.
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Having moved serenely to five under to share the lead with 2010 Open champion Louis Oosthuizen, Phil Mickelson is clearly in his element in the elements of a South Carolina circuit weighing in at 7,660 yards with unpredictable gusts of wind whipping up off the Atlantic Ocean to blow dreams off course with more certainty than high tide.
So far, time and tide has waited for Lefty, who has been all right with 36 holes down and 36 to go over the weekend at an Ocean Course belying his lowly status as a fading force holding a world ranking of 115. Form is temporary, but class is permanent and all that jazz.
"Right now there’s a lot of work to do," said Mickelson. "But the fact is I'm heading into the weekend with an opportunity and I'm playing really well and I'm having a lot of fun doing it."
Mickelson will be out in the final group alongside Oosthuizen on Saturday afternoon, but is content with a mental approach that saw him roll in five birdies as an inward nine of 31 saw him follow up his opening 70 with a three-under 69 having started at the 10th on Friday morning.
When the wind began to stiffen for the later starters, it was all the better for the five-times major champion, whose strategy has worked to perfection buoyed by finding 78.57% of fairways.
It is a case of mind over matter, muscle memory and staying in the moment for the 44-times PGA winner. To such an extent that he would only accept three questions in a media conference afterwards.
No point tempting fate perhaps.
"I'm just making more and more progress just by trying to elongate my focus," said Mickelson, whose fifth and final major (so far) was claimed at the 2013 Open Championship around Muirfield in Scotland.
"I might try to play 36, 45 holes in a day and try to focus on each shot so that when I go out and play 18, it doesn't feel like it's that much.
I might try to elongate the time that I end up meditating, but I'm trying to use my mind like a muscle and just expand it because as I've gotten older, it's been more difficult for me to maintain a sharp focus, a good visualization and see the shot.
"Physically, I feel like I'm able to perform and hit the shots that I've hit throughout my career, and I feel like I can do it every bit as well as I have, but I've got to have that clear picture and focus."
Mickelson rolled in a 22-foot putt on the par-fourth ninth, his closing hole of the day, to keep him on course for a unique piece of golf history.
He is sporting a glorious pair of shades while he excels in the spotlight. Amid the glare of the sun, gusting winds, sand and roaring fans, some unmuzzled during the pandemic, Mickelson reminded us why he remains one of professional sport's ultimate and timeless entertainers.
A month before he turns 51, the former world number two is aiming to become the sport's oldest major champion of all time with that honour still held by fellow American Julius Boros, who was 48 when he lifted the 1968 US PGA title in Texas.
He is the first man over the age of 50 to be inside the top five heading into the weekend of the US PGA Championship since Hale Irwin was tied for fifth at the age of 54 at Medinah in 1999, a tournament carried off by Tiger Woods.
Mickelson is also only the sixth golfer since 1900 to lead or co-lead after a major in four decades joining Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Gary Player, Raymond Floyd and Sam Snead to hold the honour.
If his strategy does not float away on the breeze under the brutal demands of Kiawah, expect more milestones to tumble before Sunday.
He will compete at the US Open at Torrey Pines in his native San Diego next month on a special exemption, but victory at Kiawah would give him an automatic five-year pass for the only major he has not lifted in chasing a career clean sweep of the majors.
"If it was Sunday night and you’d told me that I was leading then I’d really have enjoyed that, but right now it’s nothing more than a great deal of fun," added Mickelson.
It will be fun finding out where his meditation takes him over the weekend.
South Africa's Oosthuizen contributed five birdies to head the field on six under, but a bogey on 18 saw him share the overnight lead after an immaculate round of 68.
Former world number one Brooks Koepka continued to make forward momentum as a 71 left him one off the pace having reached six under at one point while Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama is two off the lead after a 68 saw him move to three under.
Rory McIlroy signed for a level par 72 to make the cut on three over with Ryder Cup colleague Jon Rahm on the same scoreline after a 75, but world number one Dustin Johnson will miss the weekend after a two-over 74 left him on six over – one over the projected cut of plus five.
Jordan Spieth is four over after completing a 75 to go with his opening 73 as his hopes of being the sixth man to complete the career grand slam receded in the wind.

US PGA Championship second round leaderboard

  • 1 Phil Mickelson -5
  • 2 Louis Oosthuizen -5
  • 3 Brooks Koepka -4
  • 4 Branden Grace -3
  • 4 Hideki Matsuyama -3
  • 4 Christiaan Bezuidenhout -3
  • 7 Paul Casey -2
  • 7 Kevin Streelman -2
  • 7 Gary Woodland -2
  • 7 Corey Conners -2
  • 7 Sungjae Im -2
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