Mickelson relishes the pressure of contending in Houston
(Reuters) - Phil Mickelson values the importance of being in contention heading into next week's Masters and he was right where he wanted to be, one stroke behind leader Andrew Putnam after the second round of the Houston Open on Friday.
Mickelson sank three lengthy birdie putts and also hit some precise approach shots for a couple of tap-ins on his way to a five-under-par 67 at the Golf Club of Houston in Humble.
It was his 20th consecutive round of par or better at the Houston Open, but not quite good enough to match Putnam, a PGA Tour rookie who birdied six of his final seven holes for a 65 that matched the best round of the day.
Putnam, whose brother Michael also plays the PGA Tour, posted a 12-under 132 halfway total, with fellow Americans Mickelson and Austin Cook (65) on 11-under.
Mickelson sounded delighted with his form and position as he prepares for a tilt next week at a fourth Masters title to add to his previous victories at Augusta National in 2004, 2006 and 2010.
"You want to want to experience being in contention and dealing with that as you enter the Masters," the 44-year-old told reporters.
"You don't want to just hope for blind luck ... because the pressure you feel trying to win the Masters is greater than just about anything we have."
Mickelson has won four times on the PGA Tour immediately preceding the Masters, though only once (in 2006) did he also collect a green jacket the following week.