By Andrew Both
KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. (Reuters) - As Phil Mickelson vaulted to the second-round lead and the precipice of history at the PGA Championship on Friday, middle-aged peer Padraig Harrington said he expected the American to remain on the leaderboard all weekend.
Harrington played the first two rounds with Mickelson at Kiawah Island and was impressed by what he saw in the 50-year-old's shotmaking and demeanor.
"In the position he is, I expect him to contend, and I wouldn't put it past him being there at the end of the week, for sure," said the Irishman of Mickelson.
"I think he has the bit between his teeth. I think he believes he can do it in these conditions, just like myself.
"I think myself, Phil would find it easier to compete on this style of golf course in these conditions in a major tournament all the time. You can be patient on these courses. It suits ... somebody who is thinking."
Harrington, 49, was referring to the whipping winds which are placing a premium on experience, patience and acceptance, with pars to be prized and birdies treasured.
Mickelson made no less than five birdies on his inward half, the front nine to shoot 69 for a five-under-par 139 halfway total, good for a two shot lead with half the field back in the clubhouse.
He has won five major championships but victory here would be the biggest of all, given that he would become the oldest major champion by two years, surpassing Julius Boros, who was 48 when he captured the 1968 PGA Championship.
"Even second would be a disappointment for Phil," three-time major champion Harrington said after shooting 73 to trail Mickelson by five shots.
"I'm a little bit like that, too ... because it doesn't do my career any good. It doesn't do Phil's any good.
"That might make it harder for us at times because we over-push and over-try because only winning is the only thing that will bring any satisfaction to myself or Phil."
Harrington says both he and Mickelson have plenty of scar tissue from the numerous disappointments that have accompanied their many successes.
There is a sweet spot age-wise, he says, where experience and innocence converge, and the extra experience gained with age is eventually offset by the loss of innocence.
"We have experience, but we have some scar tissue in there and we can overthink things at times," he said.
Harrington will captain the European Ryder Cup team against the United States in September.
(Reporting by Andrew Both; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)