(Reuters) - FedExCup champion Brandt Snedeker, the hottest player on the PGA Tour this year, took advantage of ideal scoring conditions by charging into a share of the second-round lead at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am on Friday.
The fast-talking American fired a flawless four-under-par 68 on a glorious sun-splashed afternoon at Spyglass Hill, one of three venues for this week’s pro-am celebrity event, to post an eight-under total of 134.
Snedeker, who has recorded three top-three finishes in his first four starts on the 2013 PGA Tour, collected two birdies on each nine to end the day level with compatriot Ted Potter Jr., who carded a three-under 67 at Monterey Peninsula Country Club.
“I didn’t make a lot of putts today but I look forward to going into the weekend,” Snedeker, 32, told reporters after sinking nothing longer than a five-footer for his four birdies on the toughest of the three courses being used this week.
“My confidence is very high and, after last week, I feel like my game is where I want it to be. Two good days to go, it should be a lot of fun.”
Snedeker, a four-times winner on the PGA Tour, has finished second in his last two events - four shots behind Tiger Woods at the Farmers Insurance Open and then four behind Phil Mickelson at last week’s Phoenix Open.
“That’s how you win out here, you keep putting yourself in position, and the more times you do, that the more success you’re going to have,” said Snedeker, who is widely regarded as one of the best putters in the game.
“I take nothing but positives away from the way I’ve played the weekend the last couple of events. I know I’ll have a lot of fun this weekend, so just try to recreate that.”
Swede Fredrik Jacobson, who charged up the leaderboard with five birdies in his first nine holes, was a further stroke back at seven-under 137 after shooting a six-under 66 on the hosting Pebble Beach Golf Links.
Also at seven-under were Americans Hunter Mahan (69) and John Merrick (67), who both played at Monterey Peninsula, and PGA Tour rookie Patrick Reed, after a 69 at Pebble Beach.
Defending champion Mickelson made three early birdies to close in on the leaders but was left feeling frustrated after dropping three shots after the turn for a 71 at Spyglass Hill.
“I had a good round going here at Spyglass and I turned a 66 into a 71,” world number 10 Mickelson said after ending a day that began amid rain showers at two-under 140, six off the pace.
“Tomorrow, I’ve got to finish off. I play a good round tomorrow, I feel like I‘m not far off. Hopefully I will put myself in position where a good round on Sunday will get it done.”
Mickelson, who clinched his 41st PGA Tour title at last week’s Phoenix Open, is bidding for a fifth victory at Pebble Beach which has long been one of his favourite venues.
“Gosh, it’s so much fun having a chance to win here,” the American left-hander smiled. “But I’ve got to finish off the round tomorrow and see if I can get something in the mid-sixties, and be ready for Sunday.”
Britain’s former world number one Lee Westwood, playing his first PGA Tour event of the year, was at four under after carding a 70 at Monterey Peninsula.
Triple major winner Padraig Harrington of Ireland was at one-under after a 71 at Pebble Beach, a stroke better than U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson who shot a 71 at Spyglass Hill.
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Frank Pingue/Ian Ransom