Saturday, October 11, 2014
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Laird starts PGA Tour season strongly after seven weeks off

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[October 11, 2014]  (Reuters) - Martin Laird, revived by a seven week break, surged into a one-stroke lead over South Korean Bae Sang-Moon and American Zachary Blair after the second round of the Open in Napa, California on Friday.

Scot Laird had a frustrating 2013-14 season, finishing 127th in the FedEx Cup rankings, but some decent late season form gave him belief that he was on the right track, not that he could be certain until he got back into the heat of competition.

"You never know how you're going to play after seven weeks off. To put back-to-back 67s up, Im very happy," Laird told after posting a 10-under-par 134 halfway score at Silverado Country Club north of San Francisco in the opening event of the season.

Bae (69) and tour rookie Blair (66) were on nine-under, while American Mark Hubbard (65) was in a group of three players trailing by two shots after making a hole-in-one at the par-three seventh, his 16th hole, on just his third tour start.

Laird, 27, is a three-time PGA Tour winner but admitted his attitude had not been the greatest last season.

"Last year was a grind," he said. "A couple of bad shots and my confidence would go or frustration would come in.

"It's awfully refreshing to be actually enjoying it and looking forward to the last two rounds rather than worrying about what might be coming.

"I putted really well today. A few holes I played smart to the middle of the green and made some nice 20 to 25-footers."

Bae also putted nicely, which made up for some wayward drives as he carded a bogey-free 69 after sharing the first round lead.

"I missed a lot of fairways but I hit really good irons (and) I think I putted pretty well," said the 28-year-old, who has won once on the PGA Tour and 12 times internationally.

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American Hunter Mahan, meanwhile, trailed by four strokes after a 68 that included a double-hit chip at the seventh hole, which was reminiscent of his chunked chip shot at the 17th hole on the final day of the 2010 Ryder Cup.

Australian Jarrod Lyle shot 70 for two-under 142 in his first tour start in more than two years since overcoming leukemia for a second time.

"It's incredible. To make the cut, that was my goal at the start of the week," he said.

"I'm just ecstatic I came through on the back nine.

I've proved to myself that I've still got a little bit of golf game left. That was the biggest question I kept asking myself, am I going to be competitive enough?"

(Reporting By Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina, editing by Nick Mulvenney)

[ 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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