AKRON — There won’t be any timeout zones situated on Firestone Country Club’s South Course and the PGA Tour won’t stand for any fisticuffs, so for the better part of five hours Vijay Singh and Phil Mickelson will have to play nice.
Singh shot a 4-under-par 66 on Friday at the Bridgestone Invitational to hold the outright lead at 7-under. Mickelson matched Singh’s 66 and is one shot back as the two head into the third round of action today.
They’ll be paired together at 2:10 in the afternoon in what could make for some interesting golf as the two have been less than fond of each other for quite some time.
It came to a head at the 2005 Masters when Singh questioned the length of Mickelson’s spikes.
Mickelson had to stop play on the 13th hole during the first round and show officials his golf shoes. When he heard it was Singh pitching a fit, he confronted him in the locker room during a rain delay.
The Fijian thought Mickelson was unduly damaging the green. “Lefty” thought the incident could have been handled differently, saying it distracted from his play.
Singh insists today’s matchup will be about the game of golf and not anything to do with clothing lines or the sole of Mickelson.
It’s the third time this season the twosome has been paired together.
“I’m going to go out there and play my heart out and try to shoot as low as I can and not really be concerned about what Phil does,” Singh said. “He’s going to be focused on his game. I just hope we both have a good day.”
Singh put himself in the best position at a World Golf Championships event after 36 holes. When he’s held or shared the lead after two rounds in his career, the Fijian has gone on to win seven times.
The times he hasn’t were earlier this year at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, at last year’s Wachovia Championship and at the 2005 Mercedes-Benz Championship.
He hit only six fairways on Friday but coupled that with just 28 putts, including nine one-putts in the second round.
“I’m always hoping that one of these days it’s going to catch on, but it doesn’t,” Singh said. “You know at Hartford I played with a short putter and I felt really comfortable over there, and I had a new thought in mind. But I took that thought to the belly putter and it worked.
“I think you won’t see me with the short putter for a long, long time. I think I’m going to stick to the belly and I think that’s the way to putt. I’m always hoping that I’ll go to the short putter and putt well, but that doesn’t happen. If you see me with a short one that means that something is wrong with me.”
Mickelson matched Singh’s 28 putts and hit as many greens in regulation (14) as the leader did, but his all-around game has the three-time major winner excited.
He’s averaged almost 297 yards off the tee and hit mammoth drives of 326 and 324 yards, respectively on the 667-yard, par-5 16th.
“I love the course, and I love the way it’s been set up,” Mickelson said. “I’m excited that I put myself in a good position heading into the weekend.”
Mickelson has been the measure of consistency through 36 holes with just one bogey – on the 482-yard, par-4 eighth hole Friday – thanks to a putter that’s caught fire.
On the 494-yard, par-4 ninth – Mickelson’s last of the day – he hit a less-than-spectacular sand shot to 20 feet on the left side of the green, but rolled it in to stay just one shot back.
“I felt that was a big putt,” he said. “I wanted to go into the weekend with a little bit of momentum. I felt like that putt looked good. It felt like I could make it, and to see balls rolling in now, it’s starting to gain a little more confidence, a little more momentum.”
Contact Brad Bournival at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.