Keegan Bradley sunk seven birdies — including five in a six-hole stretch on his back nine — to shoot a 6-under 66 and open up a four-stroke lead over Ryan Moore heading into the weekend at the CIMB Classic at Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. (Stanley Chou / Getty Images)
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia — Keegan Bradley is playing so well at the CIMB Classic that not even the fact his beloved Boston Red Sox are in the World Series can distract him.
Teeing off on Friday in Malaysia while the Red Sox were playing the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 2 of the World Series in Boston, Bradley sunk seven birdies — including five in a six-hole stretch on his back nine — to shoot a 6-under 66 and open up a four-stroke lead over Ryan Moore heading into the weekend.
He’s at 13-under 131 for the tournament, an official event on the PGA Tour for the first time.
Bradley, who grew up near Boston in Woodstock, Vt., is such a big Red Sox fan, his bio on the tour website lists his “biggest thrill outside golf” as Boston’s World Series triumphs in 2004 and 2007.
But even though he’s been getting updates on this year’s series from his girlfriend, Jillian, on the course, he’s kept his focus on his own game. So much so, in fact, he’s playing some of his best golf — even though the Red Sox lost on Thursday to even the series at one game apiece.
“In the back of my mind, I’m wondering what’s going on (with the Red Sox),” he said. “I know my mom at home is flipping back and forth, watching. It’s fun to know yesterday the Red Sox won, the (Boston) Bruins won and I shot 7 under.”
Bradley has carded only one bogey in 36 holes at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club. And he nearly had an eagle and another birdie on the back nine on Friday, missing both putts by inches.
“It’s hard to remember a time where I’ve been more dialed in than these last two days,” he said.
Moore didn’t follow up his stellar play in the opening round — when he made 10 birdies — with an equally strong second round. He had three bogeys to go with three birdies in an even-par 72 and sits at 9-under 135, a stroke ahead of Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Chris Stroud in a tie for third.
“Obviously it wasn’t the round I had yesterday but amazingly enough it wasn’t too dissimilar,” Moore said. “I hit a lot of really good putts today that just were just right on the edge, burning the edges, so overall I’m still very happy with my game and where I’m at.”
One player who’s not at all happy is Phil Mickelson, who again struggled with wayward drives a day after saying his swing is as bad as it’s been in a long time.
After a long wait caused by a backup at the 10th hole, Mickelson pulled his tee shot to the left, just out of bounds under a tree. He clenched his teeth and muttered to himself, but was in better spirits when he reached the ball, joking to the crowd, “Everybody OK? Sorry about that.”
Then, on the back nine, Mickelson gave himself two tough chip shots from sand traps onto the greens that led to back-to-back bogeys on the 13th and 14th holes. He birdied his last two holes to salvage a 2-under 70, but that didn’t give the five-time major winner much solace.
“I don’t have the control of the swing that I’d like,” said Mickelson, who is 10 strokes off the pace at 3 under. “I’m not sure which side I’m going to miss it on and playing this golf course from the rough, which I did today is extremely difficult. The rough is tough. You’re fighting for pars the whole day.”
Mickelson said before the tournament he’d be taking more time off this season and playing fewer events so he can focus more on trying to win the majors, particularly the U.S. Open, which would complete a career Grand Slam. But his biggest priority right now is fixing his swing.
“I’ve got a lot of issues and I think that I’ll address it more in the offseason. This week and next week (at the HSBC Champions in Shanghai), it’s going to be difficult,” he said.
The surprise of the Malaysian tournament so far has been Kiradech, who briefly shared the lead on Friday before Bradley went on his back-nine birdie run.
The Thai is competing in just his fourth PGA Tour event but didn’t look out of his element playing alongside Mickelson and defending champion Nick Watney. He knows this course well — he won the Malaysian Open at the same golf club in March to earn his European Tour card.
He has a chance to receive a two-year U.S. tour exemption and invitation to the Masters with a win on Sunday.
“I’m trying my best. I don’t want to force myself,” he said. “If I can do well and have a lot of luck, make a lot of putts, maybe I’ll have a chance to get the PGA Tour card.”
Shanghai — Luke Guthrie handled another day of strong wind and kept his distance in the BMW Masters with a 1-under 71, giving the American a four-shot lead going into the weekend of his first tournament in Asia.
Guthrie never let anyone get closer than two shots at Lake Malaren, and he started to pull away with a 20-foot birdie that broke three ways on the 17th. But he misjudged the speed of the 18th green on a long chip and narrowly missed a 10-foot par putt on the final hole.
That put him at 8-under 136, four shots clear of six players in the European Tour event.
Ricardo Gonzalez didn’t make a bogey until the final hole and still had a 67, the lowest round of the day in chilly, blustery conditions. Also in a tie for second were Scott Jamieson (68), Paul Casey, Thongchai Jaidee, Craig Lee and Simon Dyson, who each shot 70.
John Daly showed plenty of power but couldn’t make a putt in his round of 74, which included a double bogey-birdie-bogey finish. He was six shots behind.
LPGA Taiwan Championship
Yangmei, Taiwan — Suzann Pettersen had a hole-in-one and increased her lead to five strokes after the second round of the LPGA Taiwan Championship.
The defending champion aced the 133-yard second hole with a pitching wedge and finished with a 3-under 69 in swirling wind conditions to reach 7 under at Sunrise Golf and Country Club.
The second-ranked Pettersen was the only player in the 78-player field to break par in each round. She has three LPGA Tour victories this year, winning in Portland, Ore., and France in consecutive starts last month, and also won a Ladies European Tour event this year in China.
South Korea’s Sun Young Yoo of South Korea and Spain’s Carlota Ciganda were tied for second. Yoo had a 69, and Ciganda shot 70. Taiwanese star Yani Tseng, the 2011 winner, followed her opening 76 with a 78 to drop 17 strokes back. Winless in 41 LPGA Tour since the 2012 Kia Classic, she has tumbled from first to 25th in the world ranking in seven months.
San Antonio — Kenny Perry birdied five of the first six holes and finished with a 7-under 65 to take the first-round lead in the Champions Tour’s AT&T Championship.
The Charles Schwab Cup leader birdied the first three holes, dropped a stroke on the par-3 fourth, then birdied the next two holes. He added birdies on Nos. 12, 14 and 15.
Perry won the Senior Players Championship and U.S. Senior Open in consecutive tour starts this summer. He entered the regular-season finale 494 points ahead of second-place Bernhard Langer in the race for a $1 million annuity. The top 30 on the money list Sunday will advance to the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship next week at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco.
Tom Pernice Jr. was a stroke back after a 66. Langer and Anders Forsbrand followed at 67.
Fred Couples, the 2011 winner who missed the event last year because of a back injury, had a quadruple-bogey 8 on the first hole en route to a 75.