(Reuters) - Swede Jonas Blixt, who was sidelined for two months this season because of a rib injury, birdied three of his last four holes to surge into a tie for the lead in Friday’s second round of the $4.5 million Las Vegas Open.
The PGA Tour rookie took advantage of another near-perfect day for scoring in the Nevada desert to fire a sparkling seven-under-par 64 at the TPC Summerlin in the first of four events on the U.S. circuit’s Fall Series.
Blixt sandwiched birdies at the 15th, 16th and the last around a double-bogey at the par-three 17th to finish at 14-under 128, level with burly Zimbabwean Brendon de Jonge, who carded a 66.
First-round leader Ryan Moore of the United States, who had opened with a sizzling 61, was alone in third at 13-under after shooting a 68 with compatriots Tim Herron (68) and Daniel Summerhays (63) a further two strokes back.
Blixt was delighted to be in good position to push on for a maiden PGA Tour title, having suffered his rib injury at the Memorial tournament in June where he missed the cut after recording top-10 finishes in his three previous starts.
“I had played well for like a month-and-a-half, and then I got hurt,” the 28-year-old Swede told reporters after piling up eight birdies, an eagle, a bogey and double-bogey in the second round.
“I got that rib injury and I was gone for two months. Nothing was cracked. Nothing was torn. It just had to grow into place so it would fit my body and my swing better. Now I‘m good. I‘m back, and I have no issues.”
Asked what a breakthrough victory this week would mean to him, Blixt replied: “This is what we practise for and dream about. It would be a boost in my career as well.”
Twice major winner John Daly, who has lost his playing status on the PGA Tour and now relies on sponsors’ exemptions to get into events, soared into contention with a scintillating 63.
”It’s just putting,“ said the 46-year-old American who totaled only 23 putts to finish at 10-under 132. ”If you make some putts you can play really well. This course gives you a lot more opportunities than most courses.
“If you hit the fairways, you’re not hitting a lot of long irons into the par-fours. Today I hit the ball really well and I putted good the last two days, which is good for me.”
Daly, who won the PGA Championship in 1991 and followed up with a British Open title four years later, has not won on the PGA Tour since the 2004 Buick Invitational.
Popularly known as ‘Wild Thing’, the long-hitting American has spent most of his adult life struggling with alcohol, anti-depressants, gambling, binge eating and divorces.
American world number 21 Nick Watney, the highest-ranked player in the field at the TPC Summerlin, was level with Daly at 10 under after carding a second successive 66.
U.S. Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III, whose 12-man team stunningly lost to a resurgent Europe after being outplayed in the concluding singles at Medinah on Sunday, was a further three shots back after returning a 67.
The cut fell at four-under with 2008 Masters champion Trevor Immelman of South Africa and Australians Robert Allenby and Stuart Appleby among those missing out.
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Ian Ransom