Phil Mickelson fired himself into position to become the oldest ever major champion after surging to a share of the lead at the halfway point of the 103rd PGA Championship in South Carolina.
The 50-year-old Mickelson sent roars around Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course with a vintage display, capping off his round with a 24-foot birdie to shoot a three-under 69, moving him to five-under where he shares top spot with 2010 British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen.
The most recent of Mickelson’s five majors came in the 2013 British Open and he last won the PGA Championship in 2005, but the American has lined himself up to best Julius Boros, who won the 1968 PGA Championship at the age of 48.
Mickelson became just the sixth player since 1900 to have held a lead or co-lead in four different decades at majors, adding his name to a golfing who’s who of Sam Snead, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, Raymond Floyd and Tom Watson
“It’s really fun, obviously. To make a putt on the last hole, finish a round like that and then to have that type of support here has been pretty special,” Mickelson said.
“Right now there’s a lot of work to do… 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.”
The key has been keeping his usual wayward driver under control. Mickelson missed just three fairways on Friday.
“There were no foul balls. If he can keep it straight and hit it the way that he’s been hitting, he’s going to be around on Sunday for sure,” playing partner Jason Day said.
“With Phil, you kind of get some off-the-map drives that make it very interesting, and he’s kept it very, very straight over the last two days.”
South African Oosthuizen was one clear of his American rival for much of the late afternoon until a final hole bogey.
Come Sunday it will be 3962 days since his one and only major win, although he has lost two others in playoffs.
“It’ll be great to get a second major. There’s a lot of golf left, and I just feel whenever I get to a major, I sort of have my game where I want to have it, and mentally I feel very strong at a major week,” he said.
Oosthuizen is riding a hot putter having missed just twice (31 of 33) inside 10-feet so far.
Four-time major winner Brooks Koepka also found his way to six-under during the afternoon thanks mainly to two stunning eagles, but bogeys in two of his last four holes saw him card a 71 and sit third at four-under, just one back.
It marks the fourth straight time he has been in the top three after 36 holes at the PGA Championship. He has won two of the last three.
Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama is chasing the rare feat of winning back-to-back majors to start the year, not done since Jordan Spieth won the Masters and US Open in 2015.
The Japanese star shot 68 to get to three-under where he was joined by South African pair Branden Grace (71) and Christiaan Bezuidenhout (70).