FOUR TIME MAJOR winner Phil Mickelson burst free of a recent form slump with a blistering 64 on day two of the Scottish Open at Castle Stuart.
Mickelson holed his second shot for an eagle ‘two’ at his opening hole ahead of a round also of six birdies including four in succession from his ninth hole.
Mickelson’s eight under par tally in benign conditions along the Moray Firth shoreline in northern Scotland left the visiting American trailing just five strokes behind Sweden’s Alex Noren, who carded a day two 66 to hold the clubhouse lead on 12-under par.
Mickelson’s round was his lowest in five months since recording a similar 64 on the final day in capturing the AT & T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and his 40th PGA Tour success.
And after receiving a late invitation to contest the premier Scottish Open, Mickelson is pleased he made the trip despite having to leave his family vacationing in Rome without him.
“There was big difference today compared to my 73 yesterday as I just hit a lot better shots, struck it solidly and made a few more putts,” he said.
“I have only played three tournaments the last couple of months so I knew I just needed to play more, and I’m glad I added this tournament.
“It’s very helpful to see my game progress so quickly and I am very lucky as I have a very supportive family.
“In fact, when I was thinking about adding this tournament, after missing the cut last week, my wife Amy and I thought simultaneously of the same decision, so I am very lucky.”
Noren’s second straight 66 for a 12-under par tally included two opening birdies but then a third hole double bogey.
The Monte Carlo based Swede, who is chasing a third Tour victory, also recorded a further four birdies and a 16th hole eagle.
Noren celebrated his 30th birthday on Thursday and his girlfriend of two years, Emelie Lind’s gift to him was winning a Nordea Tour event, the Norwegian Challenge, on July 9.
“Emelie gave me a nice birthday gift in winning a tournament on Monday, so that was a really nice present for the both of us,” he said.
“It’s also good to bounce back after last week’s effort in France as I was just one off the lead going into Saturday but finished poorly to be two over on the weekend.”
Argentina’s Ricardo Gonzalez shares second place in the clubhouse in recording an eight under par 64 to move to 11-under par.
However there was a bizarre incident involving the 42-year old four-time Tour winner at the par four, seventh hole or the 16th hole of his round when his ball landed in a packet of crisps.
A woman spectator had left the half full packet of crisps on the ground and Gonzalez’s second shot came to rest in the packet.
“It was funny when I got there we couldn’t find my ball and a woman said it was in her packet of crisps,” said Gonzalez (smiling).
Gonzalez marked the spot with a tee and removed the ball before sending a 5-iron to six feet for sixth of seven birdies in his round.
“I gave the woman a signed glove, so she was very happy but there was a time at Wentworth when a ball I hit ended up in a baby’s trolley but I was lucky as there was no baby in the trolley.”
And well-placed on 10-under par is India’s SSP Chowraisa who carded a second straight 67 to move to 10-under par.
The 425th world ranked Chowrasia started his round with three straight birdies as he looks to capture a third European Tour title.
“I have played very well these two days, so I am very happy,” he said.
“This is the fifth straight year I have played the Scottish Open and, apart from one other round, this is only the third time I have broken 70, so I am very pleased.
“I have not played much links golf in my career but for some reason this week I have taken a good liking to the conditions.
“Also I have an excellent caddy on the bag in ‘Ronnie’ (John Roberts) who has caddied with much success on the Asian Tour but was brought up playing links golf so he’s been a great help this week with handing this form of the game.”
Ireland’s Peter Lawrie added to his good work on round one with a three-under-par 69 which leaves him three behind Noren.