Brendan Steele and Byeong Hun An led the way at golf’s biggest party, Phil Mickelson had a classic Lefty adventure and Justin Thomas cooled off in the desert.
An ran in a 35-foot birdie putt on the par-four 18th Friday for a five-under 66 and a share of the Waste Management Phoenix Open lead. Steele had a 67 to match An at 10-under 132 at TPC Scottsdale.
Mickelson bogeyed the final two holes for a 70 that left him six strokes back, while playing partner Thomas had a 73 to miss the cut by a stroke. Thomas was coming off a two-week break after sweeping the Hawaii events — and shooting 59 at Waialae — for his second and third victories of the season.
Mickelson tried to pull off a low-percentage shot from the left rough on the par-four eighth — his 17th hole. Behind a small tree nearly 200 yards from the green, Lefty attempted to hit a sweeping slice with a driver, but the line drive didn’t cut as much as he wanted and rocketed through the large gallery lining the right side.
“I didn’t really have much,” Mickelson said. “I was trying to get something that would cut it. It was sitting in the rough. The only play was to pitch out, but that’s not really, you know, what I like to do.”
On the par-four ninth, he took two shots to escape the right greenside bunker. “It sucks, finishing with two bogeys,” Mickelson said. “There’s no reason why I couldn’t get it going tomorrow and be in it.”
An had a far better finish, holing the long putt on 18 for his third birdie in four holes.
Steele also birdied three of the last four, holing an 18-footer on the short par-four 17th and a 15-footer on 18.
“I played well the last few weeks,” said Steele, the winner of the season-opening Safeway Open. “Obviously, the win a couple months ago, and then I’ve got good results on this course before. Everything feels pretty good.”
Defending champion Hideki Matsuyama was a stroke back at nine under along with first-round leader Matt Kuchar, Martin Laird and Sung Kang.
Matsuyama bogeyed the 18th for a 68 after his 132-yard shot to the back right pin fell short into a small bunker. Last year, Matsuyama beat Rickie Fowler in a playoff. The Japanese star won four times worldwide late last year.
Kuchar, who is coming off a seven-week break, followed his opening 64 with a 69. Laird (66) and Kang (65) joined Kuchar at nine under.
Fowler (68), Louis Oosthuizen (67), J.J. Spaun (64) and Michael Kim (66) were at seven under. Oosthuizen closed with a double bogey after hitting left into the water on 18.
Jordan Spieth was four under after a 68. He was six under on the first 13 holes, dropped a stroke on the difficult par-four 14th and made a double bogey on 18 after driving into the water.
John Rahm, playing with Fowler and Spieth, shot a 69 to reach three under. The former Arizona State player won last week at Torrey Pines for his first PGA Tour victory.
Strong winds suspend play in Dubai
Shortly after Tiger Woods withdrew, the Dubai Desert Classic was hit by strong winds that brought down some trees and forced the second round to be suspended.
Martin Kaymer and Rafael Cabrera-Bello, tied at four under after both shot a 69 on Friday, had the lowest scores after two full rounds. But George Coetzee was at nine under after eight holes at the Emirates Golf Club and overnight leader Sergio Garcia was at eight under.
Woods withdrew before starting his second round because of back spasms.
Kaymer criticized the decision to suspend play.
“Hard to understand the difference between the morning play and now, therefore even more surprised about the decision #EuropeanTour,” the German wrote on Twitter.
Coetzee, however, supported the decision.
“We saw this one tree go down. You get a warning it’s about to collapse and start squeaking. I was walking under the trees hearing the squeaking and thinking, this could be me,” the South African said. “It’s a little bit dangerous out there with the trees collapsing and stuff. Hopefully, tomorrow will be better.”