LA JOLLA: Harris English fired a six-under par 66 on Friday (Saturday in Manila) to grab a two-stroke lead at the Farmers Insurance Open, as five-time major winner Phil Mickelson joined Tiger Woods on the sidelines.
English had six birdies and no bogeys on the North Course at Torrey Pines, the easier of the two layouts used in the first two rounds of the $6.3 million US PGA Tour event.
The final two rounds will be played on the tougher South Course, but neither Woods nor Mickelson will be there.
Former world number one Woods hobbled off with an aching back after 11 holes of his opening round on Thursday, while Mickelson posted a 72 on the North Course to miss the cut.
English, a two-time winner on the US tour, leads the weekend charge with a 10-under total of 134. American Nick Watney fired a 65 to head a group on 136 that also includes Scotland’s Martin Laird, who posted a 68, and Venezuela’s Jhonattan Vegas, who signed for a 69.
Nicholas Thompson, who led the first round with a 64, carded a 73 and was alone in fifth on 137.
Australia’s Jason Day and England’s Ian Poulter headlined a group of 10 players tied for sixth on 138.
The first round was completed Friday morning after fog delays totaling more than two hours on Thursday.
English opened his second round with a birdie at the par-five first of the North Course and after five pars picked up another stroke at the seventh.
The 25-year-old also birdied the par-five ninth and the 10th then added two more birdies at 14 and 17.
“I got it rolling a little bit today,” English said. “It’s hard to make a lot of birdies on the South Course, but the North, you can tear up a little more. I hit some good shots in there close, and made some birdies.”
Mickelson’s even par effort was better than his two-over opening round, but putting woes doomed him to a second straight missed cut.
“It’s very frustrating for me right now,” said the 44-year-old American. “I felt really ready to start the year and these first few weeks have been very poor. I feel like I’m hitting the ball tee to green quite well, really well, but my putting is beyond pathetic.
“If I can’t get back to the levels of 2013, I’m not sure what I’m going to do,” added Mickelson, who is coming off a season in which he failed to win for the first time since 2003.
Mickelson, who tried both a conventional and “claw” putting grip, admitted that his struggles on the greens were getting him down.
“I’m down because I see other parts of my game do very well, but putting as bad as I have, it starts to creep into some of the other areas, too,” he said.