Leishman shares 2nd-round lead at Australian Masters

FILE - In this April 14, 2013, file photo, Adam Scott of Australia celebrates after a birdie putt on the 18th green during the fourth round of the Masters golf tournament in Augusta, Ga. Scott, whose world ranking has slid to No. 31, said Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017, he will use a long-handled putter at the Australian PGA, similar to the now-banned broomstick version that he won the Masters with in 2013. He switched to a short putter from the broomstick one after a ban began in 2016 on anchoring the putter against the body. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File)

GOLD COAST, Australia (AP) — Marc Leishman took advantage of an early start Friday to shoot a 7-under 65 and move into a share of the second-round lead at the Australian PGA Championship.

Masters champion Sergio Garcia was six strokes behind after a 71 while Adam Scott missed the cut by two shots after bogeying four of six holes on the back nine at Royal Pines and shooting 74.

Leishman started on the 10th hole and had four birdies, an eagle and two bogeys on his first nine before birdieing three of his first five holes after the turn.

He’s on 12-under 132 at Royal Pines and tied with Adam Bland, who shot 66 on a morning of good scoring conditions — soft greens and little wind.

Greg Chalmers (66), was two strokes behind in third.

“When you’re on a run like that and playing well, you sort of can afford to be aggressive,” Leishman said. “If you make a few mistakes, you feel like you can make some birdies.”

Defending champion Harold Varner III of the United States, who teed off with Leishman at 6:10 a.m., shot 66 and was five strokes behind.

Varner said he got swept along with Leishman’s strong play.

“I’m going to need some help, though, because if he (Leishman) keeps playing like that, we’re in trouble,” Varner said. “I think everyone in this field is in trouble.”

Garcia had an up-and-down day with two birdies and a double-bogey on the front nine before three birdies and two bogeys on the back.

“It wasn’t my best day out there,” Garcia said. “I hit a couple really nice putts, but probably a little bit tired, I think, physically and mentally. Because of that, obviously my golf game wasn’t as sharp as I would like it to be. But I guess the good thing is we still fought hard, we stayed in it …”

Mike Weir, the 2003 Masters champion, shot 69 and was 10 strokes behind.

Scott’s return to a long-handled putter wasn’t successful. He used a broomstick putter when he won the Masters in 2013, but switched to a short putter after a ban on anchoring the putter against the body began in 2016.

A winner of the Australian PGA in 2013 and runner-up in a playoff the following year at Royal Pines, Scott started the day at 1-under but missed at least four close putts on the back nine.

It ended a disappointing season for the father of two, who has slumped to a seven-year rankings low of 30th in the world. He last missed the cut at the Australian PGA in 2010, a year in which he fell as low as 48.

“I found it difficult switching on and switching off the last few months,” Scott said. “It’s been hard not to get frustrated by just playing a bit average.

“I spent most of the time (Friday) in the trees … I’ve got to lift my ball striking up. I lose too many shots and that’s the strength of my game.”

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