Day in contention at Houston Open on eve of US Masters

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Houston: Jason Day was back in contention on the eve of the US Masters after two eventful days alongside Phil Mickelson.

Winless in 2½ years and fighting lingering back and neck problems, Day shot a two-under 68 on Saturday (AEDT) in the Houston Open to pull within two strokes of second-round leader Sam Burns at difficult Memorial Park.

Jason Day is in contention after the second round of the Houston Open.Credit:AP

The Australian watched the 50-year-old Mickelson hit into the water twice en route to an eight on the par-three ninth, then hole out from 176 metres for eagle on the par-four 18th. "Lefty" missed the cut, following an opening 76 with a 73.

“He kind of left himself in some pretty tough positions and you’re just struggling the whole day,” Day said. “It’s one of those courses where you’ve just got to be patient and try to get your birdies when you can.”

Day had three birdies and a bogey. Compatriot Adam Scott had a one-under round to sit in a group tied ninth, four shots behind Burns, while Cameron Davis shot six over in a second-round nightmare.

“It’s one of those courses where you can walk off kind of shaking your head even though you play some good golf,” Day said. “I was chatting to Phil about that on the second hole today because he went out there and hit a nice nine-iron, pulled up short, rolled away off the green and you’ve got a 60-footer putting back up that hill. It’s one of those golf courses where it can be a little bit frustrating at times, so just got to kind of be smart about it.”

Day was in contention three weeks ago in Las Vegas in the CJ Cup when the neck problem forced him to withdraw early in the final round. The 12-time PGA Tour winner returned the next week at Sherwood to tie for 60th, and took last week off.

“It’s been very inconsistent, obviously, because I’m trying to change my swing a little bit just to try and help the back out,” Day said. “I guess I’m stuck in between patterns right now, what I want to feel, my body just won’t handle it and sometimes it just compensates elsewhere. That’s why it happened to my neck at CJ.”

Burns birdied all three par-five holes in a bogey-free 65 to reach seven under.

“It takes a lot of discipline around here,” Burns said. “You get out of position, you just try to get it back to where you can get it up-and-down or get it in a section of the green where you can lag putt it. Fortunately, early we got some good looks and I was able to convert, so solid.”

Winless on the PGA Tour, the 24-year-old Burns also took a two-shot lead into the weekend in the season-opening Safeway Championship in September. He ended up tying for seventh that week at Silverado.

Carlos Ortiz of Mexico had a 68 to match Day at five under.

First-round leader Brandt Snedeker followed his opening 65 with a 71 to drop into a tie for fourth at four under with Dawie van der Walt (66), Corey Conners (67), Aaron Wise (66) and Patton Kizzire (67).

“Didn’t drive it as good today as I did yesterday and that’s going to put you behind the eight-ball here,” Snedeker said.

Top-ranked Dustin Johnson followed an opening 72 with a 66 to get to two under in his return after a positive coronavirus test knocked him out of the CJ Cup and Zozo Championship.

The tournament — at public Memorial Park for the first time since 1963 — is the first domestic PGA Tour event to have fans since March. Tickets are capped at 2000 a day.

AP

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