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Published: 14:06 | 15/7/16

Mickelson continues to lead at Royal Troon

Lefty enjoys best of the conditions

Phil Mickelson remains out in front midway through the 145th Open Championship at Royal Troon.

Mickelson began the day with a three-shot advantage over the field after carding an impressive 63 - equalling the lowest round in major championship history - and he followed it up with a two-under 69 to move to ten-under to set the clubhouse target.

After near perfect conditions on Thursday, Royal Troon posed a different challenge on Friday as heavy rain and an increased wind made life difficult for the golfers.

Conditions were not too bad when Mickelson teed off early on Friday morning and the 2013 champion did not have to wait too long to pick up his first shot of the day, birding the par-five fourth before hitting his approach to within four feet at the seventh for his second birdie.

He went agonisingly close to a hole-in-one on the eighth when his tee shot on the 'Postage Stamp' rolled within inches of the hole. A third birdie meant a five-shot lead over the field but his lead was cut when he carded his first birdie of the week at the 12th.

While he managed to recover the shot at the 14th with a super 20-foot putt, Mickelson bogeyed the 15th before parring his way home to leave him in prime position heading into the weekend.

“I really enjoy the challenge that this weather and these elements provide,” said Mickelson. “I thought this was a good round to back up the low round yesterday. I played kind of steer-free golf again. I did make one or two bad swings that left to bogeys but for the most part I kept the ball in play.”

"We're only halfway done with the tournament so it's too far off to start thinking like that, but certainly there is nothing more than I would love to add another Claret Jug.

"I think there is a lot of pressure off me given the fact that I've already got one.

"The other thing is that from 10 years ago, when I was playing my best golf, I'm 25 pounds lighter, I'm in better shape, I'm physically stronger than I was. I feel better and now that my swing is back on plane, I'm starting to hit some shots like I did 10 years ago and starting to play some of my best golf again.

"So I don't see why there's any reason why I can't continue that, not just this week, but for years. That's kind of what the game plan is."

Henrik Stenson is just one shot behind Mickelson after enjoying one of the rounds of the day.

The Swede made three straight birdies from the third and added a fourth at the seventh before dropping a shot on the ninth. Having reached the turn in 33, Stenson birdied the tenth, 13th and 16th to move within one of Mickelson.

"I was five back of Phil yesterday so of course I was hoping to gain a little and the way it turned out I gained quite a lot," Stenson told reporters.

"I'm happy with the way I played, of course. It's not easy out there. It's a great result.

"I was hanging on for dear life on 11 and 12. They were playing tough and I got away with a couple of pars.

"I haven't been in contention for the last six majors and that was a big, big goal of mine to try and be up there and give myself a chance. So far so good."

Wet weather specialist Soren Kjeldsen enjoyed a bogey-free 68 to move to seven-under par, while defending champion Zach Johnson is five strokes off the lead after a second round 70.

Conditions deteriorated as the afternoon wore on with a number of big names struggling to stay in touch with the morning starters.

Rory McIlroy fared reasonably well in the worst of the weather as he carded a level-par 71, which included four birdies and four bogeys, to finish eight shots off the pace.

"I used to hate playing in conditions like that but I have found a way to get myself round the course and be as positive as possible," McIlroy said.

"No-one enjoys it but there is some sort of challenge to it. I made it a goal of mine to play better in these conditions and that was one of the better ones.

"I'm trying to be as optimistic as I can and I can draw on memories of being in a similar position and having won, but this is a little different."

World number one Jason Day struggled on the back nine on his way to a one-under 70 to finish on one-over and he admitted he had never played in such bad weather.

"We totally expected to have conditions that were going to be difficult, but not to the point where it was blowing 30 to 40 miles an hour with winds and rain coming in sideways," he explained.

"It was coming down pretty heavy on me. My weather gear is totally soaked now, and I've got to somehow dry it out before tomorrow."

Jordan Spieth just managed to make the cut on four-over but the double major winner does not expected to be challenging over the weekend.

"We might have caught the rough end of the draw, that happens. But at four over par my game is not major championship-winning calibre in those first two rounds," Spieth lamented.

"It just made it pretty interesting and actually somewhat nervous on the last five, six holes because I'd really like to play the weekend.

"In all honesty that does good stuff for me as if I'm not going to have the nerves of competing on Sunday I may as well have some kind of nerves, which was grinding to make the cut.

"It's worth setting a goal for the weekend, shoot maybe eight under over the next two days and see where that falls.

"I'll have to look at the conditions to make a somewhat, lofty, realistic goal but it's certainly worth shooting after and trying to gain some momentum.

"I'm looking to put in some nice, smooth, solid swings and very confident putts to lead into the PGA Championship because I know my chances here are likely finished."

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