The aviators. The vibe. The man himself.

Phil Mickelson had the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island buzzing Friday morning and was in the lead alone as the morning wave wrapped up.

The 2005 PGA Champion shot a 3-under-par 69 in the second round.

“I'm having a lot of fun, and to play well, to know I'm playing well heading into the weekend, to be in contention, to have a good opportunity, I'm having a blast,” said Mickelson. “I'm excited for the weekend. This has been a lot of fun.”

The last golfer who was 50 years old or over to be in the top five through 36 holes at a major was Fred Couples at the 2013 Masters.

Despite the fact that Mickelson was 2 over after his first nine holes (he started on the back nine and made bogey on No’s 13, 17, and 18) he turned things around as he made the turn.

This is the second day in a row that Mickelson has had a much more successful back nine.

On Thursday he shot 38 for his first nine holes but followed that up with a 32. On Friday he also shot 38 for his first nine holes, but he shot a 31 on his second nine.

“I don't know if I have a great answer for you,” admitted Mickelson after being asked about his second-nine resurgence both days. “I think that I was patient even though things weren't quite going well at the moment, and I had a few shaky strokes on 16, 17 and 18 where I was very tentative. I was able to make an adjustment on the front and ended up making some really good putts. I putted very well.”

Mickelson, who hasn’t notched a top-10 finish at a major championship since 2016, earned some heady praise from his playing partners Friday.

“He seems to be hitting a lot of good shots, and his short game is good,” said Padraig Harrington, a fellow PGA Champion. “In the position he is, I expect him to contend, and I wouldn't put it past him being there at the end of the week, for sure.

“Even second would be a disappointment for Phil.”

Mickelson birdied both par 5s on the front nine, plus Nos. 4-5. For good measure, he added a 22-foot birdie on No.9, his final hole of the day.

Although he admitted in the past he’s had trouble “elongating” his focus, he’s tried to solve that issue by playing 36 or 45 holes in a day – so then when he does play 18 holes it “doesn’t feel like it’s that much.”

Mickelson said he’s trying to now use his mind like a muscle and expand it, because as he’s gotten older, it’s been difficult for him to maintain a sharp focus.

Physically, however, he feels great.  

“Physically I feel like I'm able to perform and hit the shots that I've hit throughout my career, and I feel like I can do it every bit as well as I have, but I've got to have that clear picture and focus,” said Mickelson. “So these first two days have been much better.”

Holding the solo lead at the PGA Championship on Friday afternoon? That is definitely a ‘much better’ place to be.

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