Mickelson poised for move to No. 1

AKRON, Ohio -- Phil Mickelson carries extra golf gloves in his bag, and it's not necessarily because he needs them for himself.

Those gloves make a handy gift for those unsuspecting spectators he plunks with a tee shot, and he has winged enough onlookers over the years to make sure he has a healthy supply -- and a pen to scratch out an autograph.

Lefty nailed a poor guy on Friday at Firestone Country Club, hitting him in the shoulder and neck on the 17th hole, another errant drive missing the fairway.

"I think that gentleman learned the hazards of following me and walking down by the landing area," Mickelson quipped afterward. "I think that he might want to stay more by the tee next time."

The guy got a souvenir for his trouble, and Mickelson managed to par the hole.

Despite a few tee shots that went far from where he aimed and a double-bogey that saw him find sand and tree limbs, Mickelson is right where he wants to be through two rounds of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

His second-round 68 might not have looked pretty, but it put him in position to overtake Tiger Woods for the No. 1 ranking in golf.

With Woods struggling -- he is tied for 76th in the 81-player field and will have a dew-sweeping 7:55 a.m. tee time Saturday -- Mickelson can move to the top of the rankings for the first time in his career.

A victory, of course, is what Mickelson is after and the reigning Masters champion might put himself in position for his first PGA Tour Player of the Year award if he can come through here on Sunday.

But anything in the top four can also result in a jump to the top over Woods, who would then have to finish worse than 44th.

"Obviously it would be cool," said Mickelson, who is tied for second with Justin Leonard, a stroke behind leader Retief Goosen. "I'm not going to say it wouldn't. It would be something I would love to do and ultimately be regarded as No. 1 according to the rankings and so forth.

"And I know that I've got a great opportunity this week. I know that I'm playing well, and this is my best opportunity."

This is the eighth straight tournament in which Mickelson has played where he has had a chance through various scenarios to ascend to the No. 1 position.

It started at the Quail Hollow Championship just a few weeks after his Masters victory. A win there would have done it, but he finished second to Rory McIlroy, who roared from behind with a final-round 62 for the victory.

At the Players Championship, Colonial, Memorial, U.S. Open, Scottish Open and British Open, the top ranking was there for the taking, only for Lefty to post a disappointing result.

Mickelson had a good chance during the final round at the U.S. Open, but finished tied for fourth. He missed the cut at the Scottish Open, then could manage only a 48th-place tie at St. Andrews.

With Mickelson, you never know quite what to expect. He experimented by putting a shorter driver in his bag, giving up some distance but hoping to gain accuracy. He raved about it on Thursday, but managed to hit just six fairways Friday.

Still, he hit 13 greens, needed just 29 putts and will be in the second-to-last twosome on Saturday, his 39th PGA Tour title in sight.

"I want to come out and play well here, get in contention, get sharp, get focused, especially for next week, too," Mickelson said, referring to the year's final major, the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits. "But also, this is a World Golf Championship event that means a lot, and I'd like to make a move this weekend."

Bob Harig is the golf writer for ESPN.com.