-- Rick Smith, the swing instructor for Phil Mickelson, walked all 18 holes with his student on Friday, watching him hit decent shots into many greens, only to see them fall off the slopes at the edges all around Pinehurst No. 2. When it was over, he had a brilliant idea for a new reality television show.
"I would challenge the top thousand 10-handicappers in America," he began. "Put them 30 yards out in the fairway from the pin here. Put the pin in the middle of the green and then let them tee it up. I'd have them play 18 pars 3s like that, and I guarantee no one would break 75 from 30 yards in on this course."
Mickelson, runner-up on this same course in the 1999 Open, had a 77 in the second round Friday, his worst score in an Open since 1994, and at 6-over 146, may well have cost himself a chance to win the 105th U.S. Open.
"I've never seen anything like it," Smith said of the classic Donald Ross course. "This place will wear you out. Over four days, you may be able to get to this place for one day, but God bless the guy who can make par every day. The golf course is so tough. The rough is tough, the chipping areas are tough. [Mickelson] is swinging beautifully. He's got to go out and fight. There's no dog in Phil. The strategy is hit the best shot you can."
Funk Making the Cut
Fred Funk was delighted to shoot a 1-over 71 Friday that allowed him to make the cut in his fourth straight Open. The former University of Maryland golf coach who finished sixth last year at Shinnecock Hills said he was "very proud of my round."
"I thought the course was playing a little easier, especially when I was 2 under," Funk said. "Then I saw everybody else was going back, and it wasn't so easy. The greens are starting to get a little firmer. They were still watering them when we started this morning. Now [at midday] they're getting right on the edge. It's playing good, rewarding good golf shots, but it's only going to get tougher as the greens keep drying out.
"I predicted before we started that 5 or 8 over par could win the tournament. Still wouldn't surprise me."
Low Score Turns Heads
Peter Hedblom is not exactly a household name in his native Sweden or on the European PGA Tour, where he plays full time. So when he shot a 4-under 66 Friday for the lowest one-round score over the first two days, it's no wonder spectators at Pinehurst could be overheard asking who he was.
What made it more impressive was that he did so not playing with a lot of confidence, saying he was not swinging how he wanted.
"That's golf. I mean, the golf is so strange, this game," said Hedblom, who is five shots off the lead. "You come up here some weeks, and everything is perfect; you feel good, and you shoot 75. And then today, I didn't feel that good, but I just every shot tried to hit the simplest shot for me, the easiest shot for me to get it on the green, and that worked today. Obviously holing a lot of putts is going to help, especially because my putting hasn't been good this year, but today I started holing some longer putts."