- Bob Harig, Senior Golf Writer
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PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- There was a time when a bogey/bogey/bogey/double-bogey/bogey stretch would have left Rory McIlroy thinking about all he could do besides play golf.
McIlroy shot 42 on the front side at TPC Sawgrass on Friday and was at least four shots above the cut line at the Players Championship.
Then he made four birdies on the back, including a 15-footer on the 18th, to shoot 32 on that nine and make the 36-hole cut on the number.
A round of 74 never looked so good.
"I have struggled to grind," said McIlroy, who shot 70 in the opening round but appeared on his way to a fourth missed cut in five appearances. "The last couple of weeks I've been able to do well. It's not the position I want to be in, battling back to make the cut, but at least I'm in for the weekend."
The same cannot be said for Phil Mickelson. The 2007 Players Championship winner has not finished in the top 10 here since that victory and missed his second straight cut in the tournament after a 70 was one stroke too many.
Mickelson tried to rally but his lone birdie on the back nine at the 16th was not enough. He had birdie putts at the 17th and 18th holes but failed to convert, including a 28-footer at the last.
"I don't know what to say," said Mickelson, who also missed the cut last month at the Masters and shot a final-round 76 at the Wells Fargo Championship on Sunday to squander an opportunity to win. "I don't feel bad about the game, but mentally I'm just really soft right now. I'm having a hard time focusing on the shot. I'm having a hard time seeing the ball go in the hole.
"I don't feel bad about the way I'm hitting it. I don't feel like the misses are bad. I haven't driven the ball this well ever, for how I feel anyway, but getting the ball to the hole, getting the shots close, getting the putts to go ... I just haven't been able to do it. So I feel like it's more of a mental issue and I'll go home and see if I can work on it."
Mickelson said he would not alter his schedule heading to the U.S. Open, which means he will play the Memorial Tournament in three weeks followed by the St. Jude Classic as his lead-in to the second major championship.
Adam Scott figured to join Mickelson with a weekend off, but the No. 2-ranked player kept alive his chances to move to No. 1 for the first time by shooting 5-under-par 67 to make the cut on the number. And Scott birdied three of his last four holes to do so.
"Two rounds like today over the weekend could go a very long way," said Scott, who is tied for 64th. He needs to finish in the top 16 to have a chance to move past Tiger Woods to No. 1 in the world. "You never know what conditions will be like and what this course can do. Usually a low weekend around quality golf courses like this go a long, long way, so I'll be grinding very hard."
There was a time when a bogey/bogey/bogey/double-bogey/bogey stretch would have left Rory McIlroy thinking about all he could do besides play golf.