Steele and An take slender halfway lead in Phoenix Open

Shane Lowry five off the pace with Scotland’s Martin Laird a stroke behind leaders

Shane Lowry sits five shots off the lead in Arizona after he shot a second round 68. Photograph: Getty/Christian Petersen

Shane Lowry sits five shots off the lead in Arizona after he shot a second round 68. Photograph: Getty/Christian Petersen

 

Scotland’s Martin Laird lies just a single shot behind leaders Byeong Hun An and Brendan Steele after an impressive second round at the Waste Management Phoenix Open.

Meanwhile Shane Lowry sits five shots off the pace after he followed his opening round 69 with a 68 on Friday to take a share of 21st place.

Korean An and American Steele both birdied three of the last four holes on TPC Scottsdale’s Stadium Course to reach 10 under par in Arizona.

An, who shot to prominence when he won the European Tour’s BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth in 2015, had six gains and a single bogey in his round of 66.

Steele had four birdies in a flawless 67, holing putts of 18 and 15 feet on the last two holes to snatch a share of the halfway lead.

Scotland’s Laird matched An’s five-under-par round, making birdies from close range at the 15th and 17th after starting on the back nine.

The world number 143 then got up-and-down at the long third before finishing with gains from six feet and 11 feet at the eighth and ninth.

“My golf game wasn’t very clean,” Laird told pgatour.com. “I struggled a little bit with my irons all day but my putting was the best it’s been in a long time. A lot of nice saves where you’re looking at bogey and roll in a 15-footer for par, so those days are always nice.

“I think I only missed three greens yesterday and today I missed seven or eight greens — so I wasn’t quite as tidy tee to green but it’s amazing what the putter can do for you when you putt well.”

Laird shares third place with first-round leader Matt Kuchar, Korean Sung Kang and Japan’s defending champion Hideki Matsuyama.

US Ryder Cup star Rickie Fowler got one of the biggest cheers of the day when he whipped the 20,000 crowd around the 16th into a frenzy before firing a wedge to within a couple of feet, only to then miss his birdie putt.

A round of 68 was enough to give Fowler a place inside the top 10.

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