Mickelson four clear as Clarke makes progress on Champions

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Phil Mickelson launching bombs (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)

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Phil Mickelson continued to make light work of his first PGA Tour Champions assignment as he opened up a four stroke lead on debut at the Charles Schwab Series at Ozarks National.

While Darren Clarke enjoyed an improved second round showing, firing four birdies in a two-under par 69 to move 14 places up the board to a share of 45th at minus-two, the story of the week belongs to the new-boy Mickelson who added a 64 to his opening 61 to reach 17-under par and open up a four shot lead.

For a time it looked like it was going to be an even bigger advantage ahead of the final day; he was 5 under after the front nine Tuesday when he hit driver at the par-4 10th. The ball wound up in such heavy rough that Mickelson couldn’t find it, forcing him to take a penalty stroke. He still wound up making a long putt to salvage bogey, and that gave him some momentum for the rest of the round.

“I was able to get right back to even par on the back side with a birdie on the next hole, and then I made a couple more coming in,” said Mickelson who leads Tim Petrovic and Rod Pampling at the head of affairs.

“I’ve been putting really well,” Mickelson added. “Today I didn’t drive it the way I’ve been driving it. I kind of hung a few drives, so I’m going to the range and try to work on that now. But when I come out tomorrow I’ll try to be a little bit more aggressive with the driver and see if I can make a few more birdies.”

He’s already made 19 of them in his first 36 holes, but a new goal now has undoubtedly arisen for the debutant, that of the PGA Tour Champions’ 54-hole scoring record of 191 — shared by Bruce Fleisher, Loren Roberts, Bernhard Langer, David Frost and Rocco Mediate.

Phil would need to shoot 65 in his final round Wednesday to move atop that list. Who’d bet against him?

Full scoring HERE

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