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Lowry in the hunt at Phoenix Open as Steele and An share the lead

The Offaly man is five shots off the lead in Arizona.

Shane Lowry (file photo).
Shane Lowry (file photo).
Image: Peter Byrne

SOUTH KOREAN BYEONG-Hun An drained a 35-foot birdie putt at the final hole on to grab a share of the USPGA Tour Phoenix Open lead alongside American Brendan Steele.

An carded his second straight 66 for 10-under 132, while Steele had three of his four birdies in the last four holes in a four-under 67.

They were one stroke in front of a group of players led by overnight leader Matt Kuchar, who carded a 69, and defending champion Hideki Matsuyama of Japan, who signed for a 68. Kuchar and Matsuyama were joined on 133 by Scotland’s Martin Laird, who posted a 66 and South Korea’s Kang Sung, who shot a 65.

Matsuyama had a chance to join the leading group, but missed a seven-foot par putt at 18.

South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen, hurt by a double bogey at 18, was in a group on seven-under 135 that also included Michael Kim, J.J. Spaun and Rickie Fowler — who lost at the fourth playoff hole to Matsuyama in Phoenix last year.

There was no stumble at the last for An, who hit only five of 14 fairways in regulation but scrambled to make 15 of 18 greens.

After a solid start saw him record a 69 in the first round, Ireland’s Shane Lowry remains five shots behind the leaders thanks to a three under par 68 on Day 2.

After parring the first two holes, the Offaly man birdied the third but dropped a shot on the fifth. However, he had a strong back nine with further birdies on the tenth, 13th and 17th holes.

“I always make one of those, I guess, in a round,” An said of his birdie bomb at 18.

He had just one bogey in his first 36 holes of his first Phoenix Open, the tournament known for its massive galleries and rowdy atmosphere.

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Phoenix Open Golf Joint-leader Byeong-Hun An. Source: Matt York

Kuchar said he didn’t drive it as well on Friday as he did in his sparkling seven-under effort in the first round.

“Hard to keep up with yesterday’s seven-under,” he said. “I played amazing golf yesterday. I still feel like today was very steady golf.”

Kuchar said he noticed a difference playing in the morning on Friday, after playing in the afternoon on Thursday.

“The ball goes significantly longer in the afternoon. It feels like the course plays so much longer in the morning.”

Five-time major winner Phil Mickelson, a three-time winner and fan favorite in Phoenix, shot 70 to enter the weekend at four-under par. He hurt his chances for his fourth Phoenix Open title with bogeys at the eighth and ninth, his final two holes of the day.

It sucks finishing with two bogeys,” Mickelson said. “But I’m playing well.”

Jordan Spieth is also at four-under after shooting 68 on Friday. He hit his tee shot in the water at 18 and finished with a double-bogey.

Those missing the cut made at one-under 141 included Justin Thomas and Bubba Watson. Thomas, the FedExCup standings leader, shot 73 for a two-round total of even par 142. Watson carded a 74 for 143.

England’s Luke Donald also missed the cut, finishing at even par through 36 holes.

© AFP 2017.

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