Friday's golf: Sam Burns back at it and takes early 36-hole lead in Vegas

Associated Press

Las Vegas — Sam Burns won the Sanderson Farms Championship five days ago and is trying to put it behind him. He is playing as though last week never ended.

Burns made a pair of 6-foot par putts on the only two greens he missed in regulation, ran off eight birdies for an 8-under 63 and grabbed a two-shot lead among the early starters Friday in the Shriners Children's Open.

Not only has Burns won twice in the last six months, he also lost in a playoff at a World Golf Championship and finished one shot out of a playoff at Riviera this year. He is comfortable at the top, and it's showing.

Sam Burns

Key to this week was not to let last week linger.

“What we tried to do is just last week is last week,” he said. "This week is Shriners and preparing for this week, trying to make sure Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday that we are giving ourselves the best opportunity to play well this week.

“Obviously, incredible honored that I won last week and such a fun time, but just trying to kind of leave that there.”

Burns was at 13-under 129, two shots ahead of a group of five players that included Matthew Wolff (67), who lost in a playoff last year at the TPC Summerlin. Also in the group at 11-under 131 were Honda Classic winner Matt Jones (67), Adam Hadwin and Andrew Putnam (each with 64) and Slovakian silver medalist Rory Sabbatini (66).

Sung Kang, who opened with a 61, was among those playing in the afternoon.

Four-time major champion Brooks Koepka had a 68 and was six shots behind on a course that was doused with rain.

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While Burns remained hot, that wasn't the case with some others who contended last week at the Country Club of Jackson. Cameron Young, a runner-up last week, was likely to miss the cut, as was 54-hole leader Sahith Theegala.

They had company. Rickie Fowler managed a 66, though he was headed for another weekend off as he tries to find his game. Scottie Scheffler, unbeaten in three matches in his Ryder Cup debut two weeks ago, shot 67 and also was outside the cut line.

Burns played well in the opening round, too, except for the par-3 17th when he slightly pulled his tee shot into the water and made double bogey. There were no such issues in the second round. He was efficient as ever and remained dialed in with his irons.

Only two of his eight birdies were outside about 6 feet. He two-putted his final hole, the par-5 ninth, from 35 feet.

LPGA

Jin Young Ko had a three-stroke lead with four holes left Friday when second-round play in the LPGA Tour's Cognizant Founders Cup was suspended because of darkness.

Play was delayed at the start because of fog for the second straight day at Donald Ross-designed Mountain Ridge, with 63 players unable to finish.

“In front nine, I had a lot of miss shot, but I made a lot of good saves, so it’s fine,” Ko said. “I had a lot of good opportunity for birdies and left four holes for tomorrow. I will just take a rest tonight and then I will get better for tomorrow.”

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The second-ranked Ko was 10 under. She opened with an 8-under 63 on Thursday for a three-shot lead. She has 11 consecutive rounds in the 60s, three short of the record that Annika Sorenstam set in 2005.

In six starts since losing the top spot in the world to Nelly Korda at the KPMG Women’s PGA, Ko has won twice, been runner-up and had two other finishes in the top 10. The 26-year-old South Korean star had control of the ShopRite LPGA Classic last week in southern New Jersey until she missed a series of putts from the 10-foot range, including the last hole to finish one shot behind Celine Boutier.

Lindsey Weaver, So Yeon Ryu and Perrine Delacour were tied for second at 7 under. Weaver shot a 67, while Ryu had four holes left, and Delacour seven to go.

In Gee Chun, Xiyu Lin, Chella Choi and Jenny Shin were 6 under. Chun had six holes left. Lin, Choi and Shin each shot 68-68.

Korda was 5 under with three holes left. She's making her first start since the Solheim Cup a month ago.

PGA Tour Champions

Phil Mickelson shot a 6-under 66 on Friday for a share of the first-round lead with Matt Gogel in the PGA Tour Champions' Constellation Furyk & Friends Invitational.

Trying to win for the third time in four career starts on the 50-and-over tour, Mickelson had seven birdies and a bogey at Donald Ross-designed Timuquana Country Club in the round interrupted by a rain delay.

“Because of the rain, a little bit of some balls that would plug or maybe get a little mud, but it was really in great shape,” Mickelson said. “They did a great job of getting the course ready, and draining it so quickly for us to go back out and play, that was really nice.”

Mickelson played the front nine in 5-under 31 and added birdies on the two back-nine par 5s before dropping a shot on the par-4 18th.

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“I wasn’t quite on when we got back out there, I just was a little bit off,” Mickelson said. “I hit a few wayward shots. I just didn’t feel great, but fought to for finish the round off and try to regroup for tomorrow. It’s a good start, though. I didn’t do any damage and made some good birdies on that front nine and I’ll try to get that level of play back for tomorrow.”

The 51-year-old Mickelson won the PGA Championship in May at Kiawah Island for his 45th PGA Tour title and sixth major championship. Last year, he opened his senior career with consecutive victories in Missouri and Virginia. Lefty tied for 20th in Tucson, Arizona, in February in his lone Champions event this year.

“I like the fact that it’s 54 holes,” Mickelson said. “It’s not anywhere near as mentally and physically draining as the regular tour and you don’t have to be as perfect as on the PGA Tour because the penalty for miss is so much greater there.”

Gogel birdied the last two holes. Playing his first Champions season, the 50-year-old Gogel won at Pebble Beach in 2002 for his lone PGA Tour title.

Frank Lickliter II and Cameron Beckman were tied for third at 67. Charles Schwab Cup leader Bernhard Langer was at 68 with Darren Clarke, David Toms, Tim Herron, Kevin Sutherland, Rod Pampling, Robert Karlsson and Steven Alker.

Playing alongside Mickelson, tournament host Jim Furyk opened with a 69 and European Ryder Cup captain Padraig Harrington shot a 74 in his PGA Tour Champions debut.

Ernie Els also was at 69 with Jay Haas and Mike Weir. U.S. Ryder Cup captain Steve Stricker shot a 71 in a group with Fred Couples (72) and Davis Love III (73).

European Tour

The big crowds following Jon Rahm in his return to Spain are starting to bother the world's top-ranked golfer.

Rahm couldn't hide his frustration with some of the fans after a lackluster second round at the Spanish Open on Friday, when he carded a 4-under 67 to stay one shot behind leader Wil Besseling going into the weekend at Club de Campo Villa de Madrid.

“It is wonderful how many fans we have out here and it’s great that they are so passionate about it. I just wished they would remember to put their phones in silence, that’s it,” he said.

“I mean, for two days every single shot there’s four or five cameras going off. They are all so golf hungry, and it’s great, I love playing in front of them, it’s just sometimes you are by the par putt and there’s cameras going off. I wouldn’t like to lose focus because of something like that.”

Rahm expressed his frustration on the course after phone cameras went off in the middle of his swing off the tee on the 18th hole. After his shot hooked badly behind the packed grandstands near the green, he kept saying to himself, “In every tee, in every tee ...”

Rahm tried to downplay his criticism of the local fans as much as possible, saying it was natural for that to happen in big crowds with fans not used to golf tournaments.

"You can tell a lot of people here are not golfers and I don’t know how often that happens in the world of golf that people travel a long way to come and watch, so it’s great fun,” he said.

Several thousand fans have been trying to see Rahm up close in his return home after nearly two years. The U.S. Open champion and No. 1-ranked golfer in the world is the two-time defending champion at the Spanish Open and has a chance to tie Spanish great Seve Ballesteros as a three-time winner. Rahm has become a star transcending sports in Spain following his recent success.

Rahm made two birdies in his first nine holes and finished with an eagle on the par-5 14th, a bogey on the par-4 16th and the hard-fought birdie on the last hole after getting relief from the grandstands and hitting it close to the flag.

“I made a really bad swing, I was trying to hit it so hard,” said Rahm, who opened with a 63 on Thursday. “I was looking for a chance for birdie, but hitting it to almost tap-in was a real bonus.”

Besseling made six birdies, four of them on the back nine, to add a 6-under 65 to his 64. The Dutchman has yet to make a bogey.

“The last couple of seasons have been really good,” said Besseling, who is seeking his first European Tour victory. ”I did struggle before that so it is good to be out here performing well and making putts, and being on top of the leaderboard after 36 holes."

Besseling was two shots ahead of Spaniard Adri Arnaus, India’s Shubhankar Sharma and first-round leader Ross McGowan of England, who started with a course-record 10-under 61 but couldn’t keep up on Friday. His back nine included a bogey and a triple bogey after losing a ball off the tee on the sixth hole. He ended with a 1-under 70.