Phil Mickelson shoots 68 to take two-shot lead into weekend

LA QUINTA, California (AP) – Phil Mickelson birdied four of his last five holes on Friday in the Desert Classic to take a two-stroke lead into the weekend in his first event of the year.

A day after matching his career-low score with 12-under 60 at La Quinta Country Club, the 48-year-old Mickelson had a 68 on Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA) West’s Nicklaus Tournament Course to reach 16 under.

“I struck the ball every bit as well, I just didn’t putt anywhere close to as well as I did yesterday,” said Mickelson, the tournament winner in 2002 and 2004.

Mickelson will play the final two rounds on PGA West’s Stadium Course.

“I’m starting to drive the ball a lot longer and straighter than I have in a while and so that sets up nicely for that course,” Mickelson said. “I feel like I can play aggressively with the way I’m hitting it off the tee.”

Curtis Luck was second after a 66 on the Nicklaus layout. The 22-year-old Australian rebounded from a bogey on the par-three eighth with a closing birdie on the par-four ninth.

“Just like on Thursday, very solid, lot of greens, a lot of fairways,” said Luck, the 2016 United States Amateur champion. “Just missed a couple of short ones on Friday, unfortunately. But putting’s been great.”

Adam Hadwin and Steve Marino were 13 under, and defending champion Jon Rahm was another stroke back with Wyndham Clark and Joey Garber.