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Atwal misses cut, McDowell leads Mickelson at US Open

Pebble Beach, California, June 19 (Calcutta Tube) Arjun Atwal, through his last six holes, kept missing the cup by inches and failed to find that one birdie which would have allowed him to stay on for the weekend in his inaugural US Open at the Pebble Beach Golf Links Friday.

Atwal shot a second successive 75 on a day when virtually all the stars, save Masters champion Phil Mickelson, continued their struggle against the tough conditions at the course. Atwal’s two-day total of 150 fell one short of the cut which came at 149.

Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland held the lead at three-under 139 and he was two ahead of the four-man pack, including Mickelson (66), in second place. Tiger Woods shot a one-over 72 to be four-over 146 for two rounds and was tied 25th.

Leader McDowell’s 68 that included a bogey on the 18th, meant the cut was to be 149, 10 off the lead, and that allowed veteran Tom Watson (78-71) making the cut at a course, where he won in 1982 and where he this year got a special exemption to play his 31st US Open.

A disappointed Atwal said: ‘It is a mixed feeling. I play alright, but the breaks just did not go with me on either days. I had numerous lipouts, putts grazing past the cup by millimetres, the ball left standing on the edge, and so on. I would still maintain I hit the ball decently off the tee and fairway, but it was just not to be.’

Atwal did miss the fairways a fair bit, but it was always by small margins and when he did get into the bunker, which was quite a lot, he came out well. But the unforgiving Pebble Beach extracted maximum penalty for even the smallest of transgressions.

‘The course was demanding. In fact after the first round, I had a headache and I could not understand why and then realised that the round had me concentrate so much that it drained me leaving me with a headache,’ he said. ‘It was the same after second round.’

Atwal went for an eagle chance on the tough 18th. He was inside 10 feet with his second shot but failed to hole the eagle putt and managed only a birdie. ‘It was satisfying to get a birdie, but it was an eagle that I missed,’ he said.

On his second nine, the front stretch of the course, Atwal bogeyed the first and third and then, it became clear that Atwal needed one more birdie to stay on for the weekend. But for the next six holes from fourth to ninth, his last six holes, much as Atwal tried he failed to find that one last birdie.

The story of the second round was Mickelson, who has a record five second-place finishes here and still looking for his first US Open, which if he wins will take his Majors tally to five. Mickelson shot a sensational four-under for the front nine and then proceeded to end the day with a five-under 66 that made him one of the only five players with an under-par total for 36 holes.

Mickelson had a dream run of five birdies in a seven-hole stretch early in his second round.

‘I’m in a good spot,’ said Mickelson. ‘I don’t look at the leaderboard. I don’t look at other players. I look at par. If you can stay around par, you’re going to be in the tournament Sunday. That was kind of the goal.’

McDowell of Northern Ireland set the early pace with a three-under 68 that gave him a two-shot lead over the quartet in tied second place.

Mickelson shared the second place with the seasoned Ernie Els (73-68), Japanese prodigy Ryo Ishikawa (70-71) and Dustin Johnson (71-70), winner of the AT & T National Pr-Am at Pebble Beach last two years.

It was a struggle alright for Woods (72), the World No. 1 but at seven shots behind at the highly energy-sapping course it was not an impossible deficit to cover up over next 36 holes.

The closeby Stillwater Cove was calm and the conditions pretty much stayed as such except for a freshening breeze late in the day.

Mickelson, who celebrated his 40th birthday a day before the US Open, could overtake Woods as the No. 1 player in the world rankings this week, if he wins this week.

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