June 17, 2011
U.S. Open fans get their Phil
By TIM McKAY, QMI Agency
BETHESDA, MD. - With Rory McIlroy on the verge of making history Friday at the U.S. Open, you might have thought it was Phil Mickelson setting the leaderboard on fire instead.
Mickelson, the obvious fan favourite, playing in the same group as Northern Ireland's McIlroy, was drawing more verbal support from the fans as he walked up the fairways and got to the greens, but they couldn't help but cheer McIlroy's onslaught, too.
Mickelson, who showed flashes of putting together a strong round, couldn't help but praise the 22-year-old either.
"He's striking it flawlessly and putting great on the greens," Mickelson said. "His first two rounds were very impressive."
The crowd was delighted when, on No. 18, Mickelson attempted to put it through the trees, conjuring up memories of a similar shot at the 2010 Masters. But it wasn't to be as the ball ran down the fairway but then trickled down a slope and into the water to the left of the green.
Mickelson has been all over the place through the first two rounds at Congressional, struggling off the tee and making things happen with his short game. He had it to four-under Friday before faltering at 18 and settling for a two-under 69, putting him at one-over for the tournament.
"Even though I was able to shoot under par (in Round 2), I was still struggling with it," Mickelson said.
McIlroy is impressed the American is still in it at all.
"I don't know if I could have been under par for the tournament hitting it in some of the places that he did," McIlroy said. "But he has just got a phenomenal short game and a great attitude. He just forgets about some of the bad shots and just goes and almost relishes the challenge of getting it up and down. He's very impressive around the greens.
"I actually sort of caught myself trying to watch some of the chip shots he played ... you can see all those little thoughts going through his head, it's really cool."
In a Funk
It wasn't the magical ending Fred Funk had longed for.
After making it through a qualifier to playing in front of his hometown fans, the 55-year-old, who lives near Congressional Country Club, went out with a pair of 75s to finish eight-over.
When he finished his round Friday, he embraced his son, Taylor, who carried his bag in what likely will be Funk's last PGA Tour major.
"It was a fantastic two days," he said. "Unfortunately it was only two days. The crowd support was great.
"Every hole I felt like we were playing a practice round with Arnie (Palmer) and Jack (Nicklaus) at Augusta and both of them getting standing ovations on every hole, and I'm sitting back just watching. I kind of felt like that here (Friday). It was really special."
At least Funk was able to share the moment with his son.
"I really wanted to make the cut, but life goes on, and golf goes on," he said. "I had a great time with my son."
Who is this guy?
His name often is misspelled, his USGA website bio photo is just a silhouette and now, at the U.S. Open, the top Canadian has been slighted once again.
The players guide lists Wes Heffernan but the photo beside his name doesn't quite match up.
"Yeah, it's Tom Stankowski," a laughing Heffernan said. "One of my buddies said it's the best picture he has ever seen of me.
"I don't know how they got that picture, but that's not me."