SYDNEY (AP) — Jason Day and Jordan Spieth went in opposite directions Friday at the Australian Open.
Day had four consecutive birdies on the back nine, including a 30-footer, for a 3-under 68 that left him a stroke out of the second-round lead. Australian Lucas Herbert, who shot 66, is in front with a 9-under total of 133 on The Australian course.
First-round leader Cameron Davis, who shot 72 Friday, is another stroke behind in third.
Defending champion Spieth earlier failed to take advantage of ideal morning scoring conditions and had a 71 to fall further behind the leaders — eight strokes behind Herbert and tied for 19th place with 10 others.
Spieth, who hasn’t played since the Presidents Cup in late September, has won the Australian Open two out of the last three years and finished second the other time.
Day, who had seven birdies and four bogeys, is aiming to win his first Australian Open title in his first competitive appearance on home soil since 2013.
“It was quite tough out there today with the winds,” Day said. “But I played very well and gave myself a lot of opportunities for birdies.”
The 21-year-old Herbert led the Australian Open into the final round last year — when he finished seven shots off the pace in a tie for 20th — and is coming off a second-place finish in last week’s New South Wales Open.
“I think I warmed up this morning and it felt really good, and I was like, ‘I hope this sticks around’,” Herbert said.
At least Spieth’s morning start Saturday means he will avoid the windy conditions that the leading groups will have to contend with in the afternoon.
And that left him optimistic of a comeback. In 2014, he shot a then course-record 63 at The Australian to win his first Australian title by six shots.
“I feel like you can make up more ground and come from behind here over I think any tournament I’ve played this entire year,” Spieth said. “The golf course will start to bake out and you get really calm conditions in the morning that leave the windier conditions for the afternoon, so I’ll have a pretty gettable golf course. If I can post something like 5, 6-under, then I’m very much in this tournament.”
Day agreed that Spieth is far from out of it.
“It’s Jordan Spieth,” Day said. “If he gets something going on the weekend he can hole a lot of putts and make a lot of birdies and make a charge, and usually he does make a charge on the weekend.
“Sometimes there’s not a lot of pressure on your shoulders. You just go out there and kind of free-will it and that’s how you make a ton of birdies and move up the leaderboard pretty quick.”
Spieth said the seven-week layoff was the longest he’s had since his college days and that he felt rusty and nervous at times during his first round which featured five bogeys in windy conditions.
The wind began to pick up late in Spieth’s round Friday, as did his frustration level at times. On the par-4 sixth — his 15th of the day — his drive traveled well over 300 meters, so far that it reached a spectator crossing area that officials obviously felt was far enough from the tee.
Spieth took a drop from it, but his approach to the green failed to spin back, leaving him a putt of at least 20 feet. He missed his birdie attempt.
“It’s just been the short game rust that’s kind of hurt me a bit the last couple of days that prevents me from being 5 or so under,” Spieth said.
At least he birdied the ninth — his last hole Friday. Finishing on even-par would have left him just one stroke away from the projected cut, which could have changed based on afternoon scoring.
“That was only my second one-putt of the day,” Spieth said. “The other was for par.”
NOTES: Canadian Mike Weir, the 2003 Masters champion, missed the cut, shooting 77-69. He’s set to play in next week’s Australian PGA at Royal Pines on Queensland state’s Gold Coast, where Masters champion Sergio Garcia, Adam Scott and Marc Leishman are also entered.