On Thursday, the contrast between Rory McIlroy's first-round 65 and Phil Mickelson's 74 was drastic. Zach Johnson was in the middle of the road at 71 but didn't have the blunders or the spectacular play to draw attention.
Then there was Friday morning, when that trio made up undoubtedly the group of the day. Only this time, McIlroy wasn't the only player taming the Blue Course at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda. The 22-year-old from Northern Ireland did it best, but playing in his shadow Johnson got into contention and Mickelson salvaged his weekend by each shooting 2-under.
Johnson goes into Saturday nine back of McIlroy but is 2-under for the tournament and will play in one of the final few groups. The 2007 Masters champion isn't worried about how low the leader has gone — pulling away from the field.
"I mean, if I get myself in contention on Sunday, that's when it becomes relevant, and if it's a 15‑shot lead, then it's irrelevant," Johnson said. "If it's less than that, I mean, if it's a handful of shots, you could say it's somewhat relevant."
Mickelson, however, needed Friday's outing just to avoid missing the cut. Lefty went 3-over in a first round that could have been considerably worse, but this 2-under got him to just 1-over. And while Mickelson's game improved to be closer to McIlroy's, he also took the same trip through the water to a double bogey on the 18th hole.
"Yeah, it was a disappointing finish with that double, but I'm still struggling," Mickelson told a pool reporter after again not answering questions. "Even though I was able to shoot under par today, I was still struggling with it."
Johnson, who will likely be playing just ahead of McIlroy on the course Saturday, doesn't see the leader's performance affecting him at all.
"I'm going to play my game. I can't control the leaderboard," he said. "I certainly can't control what Rory is doing or anybody. They're just numbers."
3 – More years at UCLA for amateur Patrick Cantlay, who shot a 4-under 67 on Friday to make the cut at even par. But the 19-year-old said under no circumstance will he forego any of his college eligibility to turn pro; he insists his timeline only begins after he gets a degree.
0 – Times Robert Garrigus had ever made the cut at a major championship until this week. But Garrigus shot back-to-back 70s to go into Saturday 2-under and earn a spot on the leaderboard. "It's what we dream about," Garrigus said. "It's what we play for and it's what we work hard for. I'm excited to see [my name] up there, and I'd like to see it last for the rest of the weekend."
Quote of the day
"You can't be aggressive out here, only in the super green-light situation because there's a couple flags out there that you can't even shoot at. Even with the greens soft, it's just stupid to do that. You don't want a disaster on your card."
- Garrigus on trying different shots with McIlroy so far ahead
© Copyright 2015 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.