Holmes elbows rivals aside for 36-hole lead at Phoenix Open

(Reuters) – American J.B. Holmes used a sizzling five-hole stretch to earn a one-shot lead after the second round at the Phoenix Open in Arizona on Friday.

Jan 31, 2020; Scottsdale, Arizona, USA; J.B. Holmes tees off on the fifth hole during the second round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open golf tournament at TPC Scottsdale. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

After going five under par over five holes earlier in the round, Holmes bogeyed his final hole after a poor approach shot and shot six-under-par 65 on another perfect day in the desert at TPC Scottsdale.

With a 13-under 129 total, he headed first-round pacesetter Wyndham Clark, who could not come close to emulating his opening 61, shooting eight shots higher.

Billy Horschel and South Korean An Byeong-hun were equal third on 11-under, while Scott Piercy, boosted by the first ace of his career, with a six-iron from 194 yards at the seventh hole, trailed by three shots.

Holmes last had the halfway lead at the British Open in July, sharing it with eventual champion Shane Lowry on that occasion.

He played Friday with medical tape on his right elbow, a joint that has afflicted him for years and which required an in-round massage from his trainer on Thursday.

“I made a few more longer putts yesterday but still putted well today,” said Holmes, a two-times Phoenix winner.

Second-placed Clark did not quite fire on all cylinders but did his chances little harm.

“I wanted to extend my lead. Unfortunately didn’t have my best today,” said second-year tour player Clark, adding that he still felt confident with his game.

Among the big names, Spanish world number three Jon Rahm (68) had steam coming from his ears after two bogeys in the final three holes left him six shots off the pace in his adopted hometown.

Rahm’s poor finish came out of the blue following a run of five straight birdies.

“Could not be an easier finish but to finish two over par on those three holes kind of pisses me off,” Rahm said.

“Playing great golf and then an absolutely terrible finish honestly. It’s just rough.”

Defending champion Rickie Fowler rallied with the day’s second best score, shooting 65 to make the cut, though he trailed Holmes by 10 strokes.

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But the puzzling decline of former world number one Jordan Spieth continued as the Texan missed the cut with his one-over total.

Spieth has had only two top-10 finishes in the past eight months.

“I really wanted to play the weekend. I had a bunch of buddies come into town and wanted to give them something to watch the next couple of days,” said Spieth, who blamed poor putting for his early exit.

Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Shri Navaratnam

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