Friday’s roundup: Haas gets in the mix

Associated Press

Napa, Calif. — Bill Haas isn’t sure how he wound up in the group in place of Tiger Woods at the Safeway Open. He just considered it a treat to be able to watch the exploits of Phil Mickelson and the rhythmic swing of defending Emiliano Grillo.

And they were able to watch Haas post the lowest score.

Haas made it through the tough conditions brought on by rain Friday morning and posted a 2-under 70 that at least got him into the mix going into the weekend of the PGA Tour season opener at Silverado.

The rain was enough to cover tee boxes and the corners of greens with casual water, leading to a rain delay of 2 hours, 36 minutes. That meant the second round could not be completed until Saturday morning.

Haas was at 8-under 136, the low score among those who finished 36 holes. He was one shot better than PGA Tour rookie J.J. Spaun, while Mickelson had another 69 and was at 6-under 138. Grillo played bogey-free after the delay for a 70 and was at 5-under 139.

Scott Piercy, who tied the course record with a 62 on Thursday, played in the afternoon along with Paul Casey, who started at 8 under. They faced the more favorable conditions, because it was relatively calm on Thursday morning and the clouds were pushing away Friday afternoon and leaving behind soft conditions without the hassle of trying to keep dry.

Haas just knows he’ll be in a better spot Saturday than he was when he started.

Before even hitting his first shot of the new season, Haas faced a 10-shot deficit because of Piercy’s 10-under 62. He’s been around long enough to know it was no time to press, and he plodded along in the slog of Silverado to do enough to get back in the mix.

“Eight under in two rounds out here, I think it’s a good score,” Haas said. “I played two nice rounds and I’m still not equaling somebody’s one round. They haven’t played yet (in the second round). You never know.”

Woods had planned to play at Silverado and even entered the tournament on Friday. The PGA Tour decided to arrange the groups so that Woods played with Mickelson and Grillo. Woods, however, withdrew on Monday saying that his game was “vulnerable” and not where it needed to be.

Haas took that spot in the group, and all three have put on a good show.

Grillo had a 35-foot birdie putt that he left 10 feet short on the 11th hole, his second of the round, when the rain was at its worst. He made it through the back nine without any more mistakes, and then ran off three straight birdies on the front nine .

Mickelson returned from the rain delay in much worse shape. The driver slipped out of his hands on his first shot at the par-4 13th and led to a snap-hook out-of-bounds. He managed to make a 10-foot putt to escape with bogey .

Lefty made another bogey on the par-3 seventh when he pushed his tee shot left of the green, left of the gallery and next to a beer concession. From rain-soaked pine bark, he hit a flop to 12 feet and narrowly missed the putt. There were plenty of good shots, too, however, and Mickelson had control of his irons, which was key.

The greens were so soft from rain that it was critical not to spin the ball back too much around the hole.

“To be able to get the distance control right, the trajectory, the spin right on spongy greens and give myself as many birdies as I hit, I think this is some of the best iron play that I’ve had,” Mickelson said. “And then I hit a few wild ones, too, so I guess it’s kind of my normal game.”

Spaun had a 67 and was at 137, one shot ahead of another rookie, Mackenzie Hughes, who had back-to-back 69s.

Not many were happier than Tag Ridings, who was third alternate on Wednesday and already checking flights back home around lunch on Thursday when he got into the field. Ridings followed up his 68 with a 70.

LPGA

At Incheon, South Korea, Brittany Lang hit driver for a tap-in eagle on the par-4 15th and birdied the last for a 7-under 65 and the second-round lead in the KEB HanaBank Championship.

A day after Se Ri Pak ended her Hall of Fame career in front of her home fans, Lang nearly aced the 251-yard 15th. Her ball hopped onto the green, curled right toward the pin and missed by a few inches on the high side before stopping a foot away.

On the par-5 18th, the U.S. Women’s Open champion rattled the flagstick on the first hop with a wedge, leaving a putt a couple of inches longer than the one on 15. She had the eagle and five birdies in the bogey-free round in calm, cool conditions at Sky 72.

Lang had a 10-under 134 total. The 31-year-old American won the U.S. Women’s Open in July at CordeValle in California, beating Anna Nordqvist in a playoff.

Solheim Cup teammate Alison Lee, the first-round leader after a 65, had a 70 to fall a stroke back. She chipped in for eagle on 15 to match Lang, then bogeyed the 18th.

Cristie Kerr made it an all-Solheim Cup final threesome Saturday, shooting a 65 to reach 7 under on the Jack Nicklaus-designed Ocean Course. South Korea’s Sung Hyun Park also was 7 under after a 65.

Pak retired after her first-round 80, ending her career in South Korea’s lone LPGA Tour event. She won 25 LPGA Tour titles — the last in 2010 — and five majors, two of them during a rookie season in 1998 that was a catalyst for the boom in South Korean and Asian women’s golf.

Champions

At Cary, North Carolina, Doug Garwood birdied seven of the final 11 holes for a 7-under 65 and the first-round lead in the PGA Tour Champions’ SAS Championship.

Winless on the 50-and-over tour, the 53-year-old Garwood began the run with birdies on Nos. 9 and 10 and played the back nine at Prestonwood in 5-under 31 in the final regular-season event of the year.

Brad Faxon was a stroke back at 66, and Bernhard Langer and Larry Mize shot 67.

The 59-year-old Langer leads the tour with four victories and earnings of $2,512,659. He won the 2012 event and tied for third the last two years.

The top 72 players on the money list after the tournament — and one player in the top 10 in the event but outside the top 72 for the season — will get spots in the Charles Schwab Cup Playoffs opener — the PowerShares QQQ Championship at Sherwood in Thousand Oaks, California, on Oct. 28-30. Brian Henninger, 72nd with 172,853, shot a 72. Garwood is 37th with $483,745.

Europe

At Watford, England, England’s Richard Bland birdied six of his last nine holes and shot a 7-under 64 to take the second-round lead in the British Masters.

Bland had an 11-under 131 total at The Grove.

England’s Andrew Johnston and Sweden’s Alexander Noren were a stroke back. Playing together in the morning, they each shot 65.

Asia

At Macau, Zimbabwe’s Scott Vincent shot a 7-under 64 in the Macau Open for a share of the second-round lead in the Asian Tour event.

Australia’s Kalem Richardson (67), India’s S. Chikkarangappa (65) and Anirban Lahiri (68) and Thailand’s Sutijet Kooratanapisan (66) matched Vincent at 8-under 134.

England’s Ian Poulter, tied for the first-round lead at 64 in his return from a four-month break, had a 71 to drop into a tie for 11th at 5 under. He was sidelined by an arthritic joint in his right foot.