Harrington and McDowell set to miss cut

Fri, Feb 15, 2013, 00:00

Golf:Pádraig Harrington and Graeme McDowell are both set to miss the cut at the Northern Trust Open in California as South Korean Sang-moon Bae upstaged some of the game's biggest names by charging into an early one-shot lead in the second round at Riviera Country Club.

McDowell carded a one-over-par 73 to lie on three over, with the proposed cut presently set at one over par. Harrington did most of the damage in a first-round 77 and today’s 71 left him on six over.

Taking advantage of ideal scoring conditions on another glorious morning of sunshine, 26-year-old Bae birdied his first four holes on the way to a six-under-par 65 and a nine-under total of 133.

That left him one ahead of little-known American John Merrick, who carded a 66, but several former Major winners and heavyweight players were in hot pursuit.

British world number three Luke Donald was just two shots off the pace after returning a 66, with 2011 Masters winner Charl Schwartzel of South Africa (67) and US Open champion Webb Simpson (66) a further stroke back.

Spaniard Sergio Garcia (73), Australian Adam Scott (67) and British Open champion Ernie Els of South Africa (68) were among four players knotted at four-under 138.

“I played very well today,” Bae told reporters after mixing nine birdies with three bogeys on a challenging Riviera layout where there is very little margin for error with approach shots into the small greens.

"I hit a bunch of good shots and I made many good putts, but I missed a couple of short putts on holes number five and seven. But that was not a big problem. I did my best today.”

Bae was a runner-up at last year’s Transitions Championship in his rookie season on the PGA Tour and he knows how difficult it is to win on the US circuit.

“There are many good players on the PGA Tour so it’s very competitive,” he smiled. “It’s a good experience for me and I will just play my game. My goal is win, but you know, that's not easy.”

Winning this week will certainly not be easy for Bae with 12 of the world’s top 20 players heading a strong field at Riviera.

Among them is former world number one Donald who has recorded three top-six finishes at the venue in the past five years.

“I'm happy with my score, obviously coming off a pretty good break,” said the Englishman who is playing his first tournament since he tied for third at the European Tour’s DP World Tour Championship in November.

“You never know how you’re going to deal with being back in competition again but certainly a big improvement today, ball-striking wise. My short game has been very sharp.

“I’ve been excited about that. It's been a big key to my score so far and I’m excited to be in the mix again.”

Donald, a five-times champion on the PGA Tour, totalled only 25 putts on Friday and sank monster putts from just off the fringe at the third, from 22 feet, and at the fourth, from 72 feet.

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