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Johnson catches a big break at sixth hole

BETHESDA, Md. -- If Zach Johnson does get into contention this weekend, he can thank one excellent shot and a lucky break. Johnson eagled the par-5 sixth hole, and realized how close he'd come to irrelevance.

It was the 240-yard 3-wood he hit for his second shot. "I had the perfect club, I was trying to hit it left of the hole. It did cut, and I caught it just a smidge heavy and it landed on the front of the green," the 2007 Masters champion said. "It was 2 yards from being in the water.

"And then I hit a putt that would have been minimum 8 feet by if it didn't hit the back of the hole. Fortunately, it went in," he said.

He ended the second round at 2-under, tied for third, with a good chance of having his best Open. In seven tries, he's missed four cuts and tied for 45th, 48th and 77th.

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Phil Mickelson shot 2-under par 69 to reach the midway point at 1 over for the Open. Normally, that would not be bad, but with Rory McIlroy at 11-under, Mickelson is way back. He was somewhat bewildered over his double-bogey on 18.

"Even though I was able to shoot under par, I was still struggling with it," he said. "I think I'm going to try to figure out what it is I need to work on first and then get back to the range."

Steven Irwin, son of three-time Open champion Hale Irwin, is headed home after finishing 13-over.

When he was asked how he can regroup, he said, "I'm going to go home, sit down, kick my feet up and remind myself that I'm a 36-year-old amateur and try to go out and have a good time. That's about it."

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Surely, Robert Rock was going to crash in the second round, having made it through the first round fueled by adrenaline and not much else after visa problems made him a last-minute arrival.

Nope. The Englishman was solid again. He followed up his 70 with an even-par 71 on Friday and will stick around for the weekend.

"I ran out of energy after nine holes, to be honest," he said. "I'm 1-under for the tournament, which is OK, but I feel like I should have got through the second nine in 2- or 3-under. I knew I'd run out of energy at some point."

Rock didn't secure his visa for his flight to the United States until Wednesday afternoon, the delay caused by an alcohol-related driving incident when he was a teenager. He arrived in Maryland in the wee hours of Thursday.

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Patrick Cantlay hardly looked like an amateur on the back nine Friday.

Doesn't matter. He intends to remain one. The 19-year-old Californian birdied Nos. 10, 11 and 12 -- supposedly the most brutal stretch of the Blue Course -- then picked up strokes at the 16th and 17th. He finished with a 67, which, combined with his first-round 75, puts him at even par at the halfway point.

"I had some confidence before I came here this week, but, yeah, it definitely makes you feel good about the future," Cantlay said, "and hopefully one day I can be playing as a pro."

But not anytime soon. He just finished his freshman year at UCLA and plans to stay until he graduates.

"I have three more years," he said.

On June 5, as winner of the Jack Nicklaus Award as the nation's top college golfer, he posed with the Golden Bear himself.

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