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Golf-Mickelson factor helps Bradley go low in Phoenix

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Feb 1 (Reuters) - Phil Mickelson's sizzling play at the Phoenix Open rubbed off in the best way possible on his U.S. Ryder Cup partner and protege Keegan Bradley during the second round on Friday.

Inspired by Mickelson's stunning 11-under-par 60 in the opening round, Bradley followed suit by firing a scintillating 63 to hold, briefly, the 36-hole lead in the PGA Tour event at Scottsdale, Arizona.

Though former PGA Championship winner Bradley found himself five strokes behind tournament leader and late starter Mickelson by the end of the day, he was delighted with his position going into the weekend at the TPC Scottsdale.

"Any time you shoot 63, you put yourself back in the tournament," the 26-year-old American told reporters after mixing seven birdies with an eagle and a lone bogey to post a 12-under total of 130 on the Stadium Course.

"I feel so good because I've been playing really well and not getting much out of it. Today the putts started to go in. I really had a fun time, on 15 and 16, with the crowds. It just was a really fun round today."

Bradley, who has been mentored by PGA Tour veteran Mickelson since his rookie season on the U.S. circuit in 2011, felt inspired by his good friend's red-hot start to the week.

Four-times major champion Mickelson came within a whisker of becoming the sixth player on the PGA Tour to dip under 60 in the opening round, but lipped out with a birdie putt from 25 feet on his final hole.

"I spoke to him last night," said Bradley, who won all three matches he played with Mickelson last year on his debut at the Ryder Cup team competition.

"I watched the putt on the last hole and found myself cheering for him, just like I did at the Ryder Cup. He gets me excited to play, so I'm really happy to put a low one (score) up there and hopefully see him at the weekend."

Bradley recorded three birdies and his eagle to reach the turn in five-under 31 after teeing off at the 10th on Friday, but then paid the price for focusing too much on what might be possible in the low-scoring conditions.

"I got a little into my score there at the turn," said Bradley, who clinched his first major title as a rookie at the 2011 PGA Championship.

"I got a little tight and made a bogey (at the second) and a couple of pretty bad pars, but then I kind of settled back down again. I hit a really, really good drive on the fifth hole, and then it just kind of lifted from there.

"I just relaxed a little bit. I want to get myself into contention so bad sometimes that it can work against me, and that's when I kind of have to relax and take a deep breath." (Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Nick Mulvenney)

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/thomson-reuters/130201/golf-mickelson-inspiration-helps-bradley-go-low-phoenix