(Reuters) – Australian Jason Day and defending champion Phil Mickelson put the pressure on leader Nick Taylor with sizzling play but could not catch the Canadian in a low-scoring second round at Pebble Beach Pro-Am on Friday.
Taylor, with a six-under 66, wound up with a two-stroke lead over Day (64) and a three-shot margin over five-times champion Mickelson (65), whose bogey at the last at Monterey Peninsula disrupted his run for the low round of the day.
Taylor, world number 229, pushed home with birdies at four of the final five holes at Pebble Beach to stay at the top of the leaderboard at 14-under 129 after an opening 63.
“Made a bogey at 12. After that I gave myself some chances and I made a lot of them,” said the Canadian who collected seven birdies, four of them from the 14th hole on, in another pleasing round.
Day, also playing Pebble Beach, grabbed his sixth birdie of the day at the last for his superb round. He also had an eagle at the par five 14th in seeking his first win in nearly two years.
“I was very pleased with how I drove the ball,” said the Australian world number 46. “Obviously some of the iron shots were nice and I kind of lit it up on the putting green.”
He started the round with three birdies in six holes and added three more after the turn.
“I felt like you could kind of get off at Pebble today with the kind of benign conditions that we had for the good part of 15 holes. Then that wind kind of picked up,” Day said.
Mickelson, playing the back nine at Monterey first, punched new excitement into the round with four consecutive birdies to start his incoming nine to go eight-under. But the 49-year left-hander who still needs to qualify for the U.S. Open could not find another birdie in the final five holes.
He had made the turn at four-under after three birdies and an eagle that were offset by a bogey at the 15th.
Chris Baker, like Day, shot an eight-under 64 while playing Pebble Beach to tie South African Charl Schwartzel (66) at 10-under.
A bogey at his last, the par-four ninth, spoiled Baker’s big round which included five birdies on his front nine, two more to start his inward nine and an eagle at the sixth hole, his 15rh.
Dustin Johnson (65 at Monterey Peninsula) and Scott Piercy (65 at Pebble Beach) also were within striking distance at nine-under.
(Reporting by Gene Cherry in Raleigh, North Carolina; Editing by Daniel Wallis)