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After a big Friday, Mickelson battles adversity on Day 2
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- Six feet. Six little feet. A testy putt, to be sure, but one that defines the legacy of a player such as Phil Mickelson.
Besides, this is what he had longed for: A chance to seize the moment at the Ryder Cup, a chance to give the Americans a crucial boost going to the final day of an event they haven't won since 1999.
This is surely what U.S. Captain Paul Azinger had in mind when he sent Mickelson back to the course in the afternoon, even after his dream pairing with Anthony Kim squandered the closest thing to a sure win in the morning.
So, Mickelson studied the putt at the 17th hole from every angle, took a couple of swings just for practice, then settled over the ball. He drew his club back, and swung it forward. The ball was on its way.
Right by the cup.
After a day of seeming redemption, Mickelson's shaky Ryder Cup history bubbled back to the surface on Saturday. He and Kim, probably the most talented American tandem, tossed away a 4-up lead after six holes in an alternate-shot match against Henrik Stenson and unheralded Oliver Wilson.
Then, Mickelson missed that short birdie putt, which would have broken a tie going to the final hole. He wasn't much help on the 18th, either, knocking his tee shot into a bunker, putting his second shot on the side of a hill and then making a tentative chip.
It was left to Hunter Mahan to bail out the Americans out. He made the birdie at No. 18 and the Americans escaped with a half-point in their match against Stenson and Robert Karlsson. The home team goes to the final day with a 9-7 lead, but it might have been bigger with more of a contribution from Mickelson.
"It was a very emotional and up-and-down day," Mickelson conceded. "But we fought hard all day, and Hunter and I hung in there. Obviously we wanted to win. We had opportunities for that."
Mickelson, who'd won one of his nine matches in the two previous Ryder Cups, was now 1-2-1 at Valhalla, accounting for more points here than he managed at the previous two Ryder Cups.
On Sunday, Mickelson will be in the fourth group out, facing Justin Rose and seeking his first singles win since 1999. In 2002, he lost a pivotal match to Phillip Price, ranked 119th in the world at the time, at the Belfry. He was beaten by a pair of Spaniards, Sergio Garcia and Jose Maria Olazabal, in the European routs of '04 and '06.
Azinger insisted there's no concern about Mickelson falling short again.
"I'm not worried about Mickelson's mind-set at all," the captain told reporters late Saturday. "My message all week long to you guys is anything that happened in the past is in the past and has no bearing on what's going on."
Azinger's only advice to Mickelson will be of a dietary nature. Mickelson apparently went through quite a spread before his loss to Price six years ago.
"I hope it's not three waffles, two eggs and a Diet Coke," Azinger said. "I heckled him about that already."