-- The love affair between Long Island golf fans and Phil Mickelson was in full bloom again Friday at Shinnecock Hills.
Riding a wave of adoring applause and rousing cheers everywhere he walked, Mickelson soared into a tie for the 36-hole lead of the 104th U.S. Open with a bogey-free round of 66 that put him in position to win a second straight major championship.
Mickelson, who finished second to Tiger Woods in the 2002 Open 60 miles west of here at Bethpage Black, repeatedly heard his name being bellowed from the crowd, as in "come on Philly Baby." The Masters champion responded by hitting 11 of 14 fairways and the same safe and sound approach that helped him win the Masters in April at Augusta National.
Mickelson is at 6-under 134 entering the final two days, tied for the lead with first-round co-leader Shigeki Maruyama of Japan, in with a 68 that included a bogey out of the rough at the 18th hole. Mickelson went to sleep Friday night with his ears probably still ringing from the raucous reception he got walking up the 18th hole at mid-day, even if he did miss a seven-foot birdie putt a few minutes later.
"To have the amphitheater effect and to have that type of ovation, it's a great feeling," Mickelson said. "I was able to experience that this year in Augusta, and it's awesome. The people here in New York have given us a wonderful ovation, and it's been a lot of fun playing in front of everyone."
Jeff Maggert, with 11 top-10 finishes but no victories in major championships, had something of a joyride himself later in the day, when he went around in 67 and was at 5-under 135. And Ernie Els, a two-time U.S. Open champion, also was feeding off enthusiastic crowds, especially on a run of four straight birdies that began on the fifth hole. It vaulted him from a seemingly stalled position at even par through his first 22 holes into a tie for sixth after a 67 -- 137.
Tiger Woods, meantime, was mostly feeling frustrated in his attempt to end a run of seven straight majors without a victory. He began with a bogey, kept saving pars from the sand and deep rough -- making 12 straight at one point -- before finally getting back to back birdies at his 14th and 15th holes. He ended with a scrambling 69, and anyone who saw it would have to say he could easily have posted 79.
"I just figured hang in and be patient," Woods said. "Just hang in there and eventually some birdies will come. . . . This is the U.S. Open. Your patience is challenged from the very first tee. Everyone who plays this tournament knows that. I'm pleased to be where I am."
On Saturday, Mickelson will play in the final group with Maruyama, a 5-foot-6 sprite who speaks little English but gets crowds on his side with his beaming grins and often spectacular play. Tied with Jay Haas (74 -- 140) for the first-round lead, Maruyama -- known on the PGA Tour as "the Smilin' Assassin" -- also made a move toward the top Friday afternoon, pushing to 7 under with a birdie at the par-5 fifth, his 14th hole of the round. His bogey at 18, after a near-miss on a 25-foot par chip, left him tied with Mickelson.
Another bantamweight, former Maryland golf coach Fred Funk, got himself into contention, as Shinnecock for a second straight day was without its most formidable defense, strong wind. Funk also posted a bogey-free 66 that included another holed out bunker shot for birdie -- he did it on Thursday, too -- and was tied for fourth at 136 with former Open champion Retief Goosen (66) of South Africa.
Funk said he had no great expectations for success this week. Normally the most accurate driver on the PGA Tour, he said he's been struggling with his ball striking over the last six weeks and missed the cut at the Buick last week at Westchester, usually one of his favorite events. Funk has only one top-10 finish in his previous 16 appearances, and Open venues are often too long for him to have much success.
Shinnecock Hills, at 6,976 yards, has not posed any such problems, and his steady short game and putting again put him in prime position to contend, even at age 48. He started on the back nine Friday, and his round got a major boost when he made a difficult 18-foot putt to save par from the greenside bunker at the 403-yard 15th.
He made another tough 18-footer at the 540-yard 16th after a dreadful third shot chip left him with "an impossible putt." The sand-blasted birdie was at No. 2, and he followed it with a three-footer at the 398-yard No. 8 and a sweeping 40-footer at his final hole, the 443-yard No. 9, that took its last dying roll into the cup.
"It was great to finish like that," said Funk, a native of Laurel who now lives in the Jacksonville, Fla., suburbs. "That was one of those putts I was trying to lag, and it went in."
Funk also is getting major feedback from the galleries, mainly because they like to use his last name in chants -- some naughty and others nice.
"I'm hearing a lot of that play on my name," he said. "'You got to have that funk,' that kind of thing. They're wearing me out."
Mickelson and 56 other players had to return to the course almost before dawn to complete their rain and fog-delayed first rounds. Mickelson had to hit his first shot of the morning on Shinnecock's hardest hole, the 189-yard No. 7 with its green guarded by a huge bunker protecting a small landing area. Many tee shots out of that zone simply roll off the back into treacherous territory.
That's precisely what happened to Mickelson. He hit his ball in deep rough to the right of the green and tried to hit his second shot into the upslope of the hill and on the putting surface. Despite a dreadful lie, he managed to get it 20 feet from the hole. He missed the par putt, and left himself a tricky four-footer, making it for a bogey that just as easily could have been a debilitating disaster.
Mickelson then proceeded to birdie the 398-yard No. 8, making a 12-foot birdie putt and parred in for a first round of 68. He wasted little time forging ahead, making two front nine birdies and one incredible save of par at the 537-yard fifth, where he avoided another big number after a rare wayward drive in the thick rough. He hit that shot into more deep rough, slashed his third into a bunker, then blasted to within six feet and made the putt for an anything but routine par.
Mickelson's last birdie came at the 16th, a hole that likely cost him a chance at the Open title in 1995, the last time it was played at Shinnecock. He played that hole in 6 over for the week, including a double bogey, and finished fourth. But he posted par there Thursday and knocked in a four-footer for birdie Friday after a third-shot blast from a bunker.
Mickelson, after so many years of freewheeling and occasionally reckless golf in majors, admitted that his new approach is far more rewarding.
"The style of golf needed in major championships is significantly different than a regular tour event, which seems to be more attack, attack, attack," he said. "The majors seem to be something different. After winning Augusta, the preparation I had, the style of shots and so forth I've worked on seem to be allowing me to play and score well in majors. Now I look forward to and can't wait for them to come."