Sports

Phil Mickelson also misses the cut at Torrey Pines

With golf's two biggest stars out, Harris English has a two-shot lead.

Fans crowded around the last green, pushing two and three deep along the ropes, as Phil Mickelson strode up the fairway.

The man with five majors on his resume chipped to within eight feet of the pin, then two-putted for par, drawing a raucous cheer as he waved his cap in the air.

Apparently, the gallery did not care that he had missed the cut by three strokes.

"This is very frustrating," Mickelson said.

Another day, another marquee name subtracted from the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines.

Heading into the weekend, Mickelson has fallen prey to a balky putter and Tiger Woods has returned home to nurse his inactivated glutes. The leaderboard instead features the likes of Jhonattan Vegas, Martin Laird and Nicholas Thompson.

The man in the lead — Harris English at 10-under-par 134 — got there with a 66 on the North Course by playing a second day of bogey-free golf and making clutch putts like the five-footer that saved par on No. 11.

"Those are the putts, the momentum savers, that really keep your round going," he said. "I really, really focus on those because those can keep you playing aggressive."

If nothing else, with Woods and Mickelson absent, golf can return to its regularly scheduled programming. This is the second consecutive week they have failed to reach the third round, leaving all eyes to focus on players who might not be crossover famous but are currently more relevant on the PGA Tour.

Nick Watney, who won here in 2009, is tied with Vegas two shots behind English. A pack of contenders four strokes back includes eighth-ranked Jason Day and 13th-ranked Jimmy Walker, who won the Sony Open last month. Two other winners this season — Bill Haas and Brooks Koepka — are close.

After a fog-shrouded start to the tournament, Friday turned bright and clear by late morning. More than a few players who had managed to survive Torrey Pines' tougher South Course in the first round soon made their move on the shorter North side.

"That's the side that you need to capitalize on and really kind of shoot yourself up the leaderboard," Day said after a seven-under 65.

English started fast, making birdie, but had to remind himself that even the NorthCourse can be treacherous. "You've still got to hit some good shots because the rough is brutal," he said.

His play over the past two days proved that golf can be agonizingly simple. While putting carried English to the lead, it proved to be Mickelson's undoing.

Time and again, the San Diego native gave himself a look at birdie or par, only to slide the ball past the cup. At one point, he tried switching to a claw grip, which did not help.

Mickelson's confidence was clearly shaken as he spoke about technical and mental issues that must be addressed after finishing at two over.

"I feel like I'm hitting the ball tee to green quite well, really well," he said. "But my putting is beyond pathetic."

As Mickelson returns to the practice green, it remains to be seen if his hometown fans will find someone else to cheer for over the next two days on the South Course.

For all the griping among golf fans who think the game's younger generation deserves more attention, it is still Woods and Mickelson who draw the largest galleries and generate the most Internet traffic.

Just minutes after Mickelson finished Friday, Vegas came through, concluding a round of 69 that left him two strokes off the lead.

The crowd had cleared by then. Only a few dozen people remained to clap politely.

david.wharton@latimes.com

Twitter: @LATimesWharton

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
69°