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Friday’s roundup: Murray shoots 65 to take 2-shot lead

David Brandt
Associated Press

Jackson, Miss. — Grayson Murray and his caddie had a discussion before his final hole that centered on playing it safe or using his driver.

It was a short conversation.

“Driver, man,” Murray said as he recounted the conversation. “Let’s try to make birdie.”

Turned out to be another good decision in a day full of them. After a solid drive on the 416-yard par 4 and a nearly perfect wedge from 89 yards, the 23-year-old PGA Tour rookie made a short birdie putt for a 7-under 65 and a two-shot lead in the Sanderson Farms Championship.

Murray started his day with a bogey at No. 10, but then made eight birdies to take a two-shot advantage over Greg Owen and Seamus Power. The leader was at 12-under 132.

Owen, a 44-year-old Englishman who has never won a tournament on tour, has shot back-to-back 67s to put himself in contention.

“It’s a good start — I’m happy,” Owen said. “It’s nice to get out this year and get back playing and playing decent and holing some putts. But there’s a long, long way to go.”

Power had a 69. Lucas Glover (69), Trey Mullinax (70), Graham DeLaet (69) and Brandon Hagy (68) were three strokes back.

Kevin Streelman had a two-shot lead after shooting a 63 in the first round, but struggled to a 73 to fall four strokes behind Murray. Cody Gribble was one of the big movers, shooting a 63 to pull within four shots.

But the story on Friday was about Murray, who is on the PGA Tour just a few years after a nomadic college career that included stops at four schools — Wake Forest, East Carolina, UNC Greensboro and Arizona State.

Now he’s leading a tour event going into the weekend in just his third career tournament.

“We practice to get in this position,” Murray said. “We don’t practice to make cuts, we practice to win golf tournaments. I know I have the game to win a golf tournament.”

Murray said he expects plenty of competition over the weekend with 13 players within four shots of the lead. Nearly ideal conditions at the Country Club of Jackson have led to plenty of birdies.

“There’s a lot of good players, there’s a lot of birdies to be made on this course,” Murray said. “But there’s also some bogeys if you’re not in the fairways. So just keep it in the short grass, give myself as many chances as I have done on the first two days.”

World Golf Championships

At Shanghai, Hideki Matsuyama arrived at the HSBC Champions as the first Japanese player in nearly two decades to reach the top 10 in the world ranking. His 19 birdies over 36 holes in biting chill and swirling wind helped explain how he got there.

Even as the weather shifted dramatically Friday at Sheshan International, Matsuyama kept piling up the birdies. One last birdie on the par-5 18th gave him a 7-under 65 and a three-shot lead going into the weekend of the final World Golf Championships event of the year.

Matsuyama was at 13-under 131 and led by three shots over defending champion Russell Knox (68) and Bill Haas (67). He shouldn’t have been surprised by the result because it was his eighth consecutive score in the 60s dating to the second round of the Tour Championship.

Rain the last two days gave way to a strong wind when Matsuyama was warming up, and the wind made the sharp dip of temperatures into the 50s feel even worse.

Fifteen players still managed to break 70 because of the rain-softened greens, and while Matsuyama’s 65 was the best score of the second round, making it even more impressive was that he also had two bogeys. On Thursday, he had 10 birdies against four bogeys.

Matsuyama already is having his biggest year since he began playing regularly round the world in 2014. He overcame a two-shot deficit over the last two holes and beat Rickie Fowler in the Phoenix Open. He had another top 10 in the Masters. Two weeks ago, he won the Japan Open for his ninth victory worldwide. He was runner-up to Justin Thomas in Malaysia last week, pushing him to No. 10.

LPGA

At Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Amy Yang holed a pitching wedge for eagle on the par-4 11th hole and stretched her lead to three strokes in the hot, humid and stormy Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia.

The 27-year-old South Korean player had a 2-under 69 at TPC Kuala Lumpur, a day after shooting 63 to miss her own course record by a stroke. She parred the first 10, then hit the approach that landed on the front of the green, hopped and rolled in.

Anna Nordqvist, Mi Jung Hur and Candie Kung were tied for second after the round that was delayed about two hours because of lightning — accompanied by periods of heavy rain — with the last group in the 16th fairway. Nordqvist had a 68, and Hur and Kung each shot 65 to match the best rounds of the day.

They’re playing TPC Kuala Lumpur’s East Course, a week after Justin Thomas successfully defended his title on the West Course in the PGA Tour’s CIMB Classic.

Yang made her first bogey of the week after hitting into the water on the par-4 14th. She returned from the delay — and lunch — to hole a 20-footer for birdie on the par-5 16th. Both of her LPGA Tour victories have come in Asia, the first in 2013 in South Korea and the second last year in Thailand.

Michelle Wie followed her opening 66 with a 70 to drop four strokes behind.

Champions

Thousand Oaks, Calif., Fred Couples shot a 4-under 68 in his first competitive round in eight months, while Bernhard Langer withdrew without hitting a shot in the PowerShares QQQ Championship.

Returning from a chronic back injury, the 57-year-old Couples had three straight birdies on the back nine at Sherwood in the PGA Tour Champions’ playoff opener. He was tied for eighth, three strokes behind leader Colin Montgomerie.

Langer re-aggravated a left knee injury at home in Florida doing routine spinning, had an MRI on Monday and wasn’t able to play a practice round.

Montgomerie shot a 65, closing with a birdie after nearly holing his approach on the par-4 18th. The Scot birdied the first three holes, and had four more on the back nine. He won in Canada this season for his fourth tour title and is fourth in the Charles Schwab Cup standings.

Fred Funk was two strokes back at 67 along with Scott McCarron, Jim Carter, Joey Sindelar, Jerry Smith and Brandt Jobe.