Saturday, 18 February 2012
Phil Mickelson  (Getty Images)
Phil Mickelson (Getty Images)
Phil Mickelson remains on track to record back-to-back titles after maintaining his lead at the Northern Trust Open in California.

The left-hander set the pace on day one with a five under 66 and, although he could not reach such heights on day two, he did card a one under 70 to remain at the head of the pack.

His latest rival for the title, which would follow on from his win at Pebble Beach last weekend, is Pat Perez, who shot the best round of the day with a score of 65.

Should Mickelson win, he will back-up for the fourth time in his career, and he knows success is there for him should he be able to shoot low over the second half of the tournament.

"I've got to go out and shoot some low scores because they're out there, but I gave myself a good opportunity, which is what's so fun about competing and playing the tour is those opportunities on the weekend," Mickelson said.

Five men occupy third spot going into the third round, with Jimmy Walker, Matt Kuchar, Carl Pettersson, Jarrod Lyle and Jonathan Byrd all in with a shout, while Bubba Watson is one of a trio a shot further back on three under.

"I salvaged a good round today," Mickelson added of his performance.

Perez, meanwhile, was not too pleased with his showing, having hit just five of 18 fairways despite his impressive tally.

"I didn't hit it like you'd think I would," Perez said. "I didn't drive it all that great. I just scrambled well. I put myself in the right places to make par or birdie."

A second one under round of the tournament leaves England`s Justin Rose looking at the lead from just four shots away, but Luke Donald is five behind having dropped a shot and fallen to even for the championship.

With eight players on course when darkness fell, the cut has not been entirely confirmed, although Sergio Garcia is expected to make it despite a five over 76.

Two over Padraig Harrington should also make the grade after a one under 70 today.

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