news 1 week ago

Canada's Taylor leads PGA Tour in Las Vegas

AFP

Los Angeles (AFP) -

Nick Taylor fired a sparkling eight-under par 63 on Friday to take a one-shot lead over Brian Harman in the US PGA Tour event in Las Vegas, where five-time major winner Phil Mickelson was in the mix.

Canada's Taylor found 14 of 14 fairways and 15 of 18 greens in regulation. He didn't miss a putt from within 10 feet, rolling in six birdies and an eagle at the par-five 15th on the par-71 TPC Summerlin course.

"It's going to be hard to top today's round tomorrow," admitted Taylor, who drove the green on the 325-yard 15th and rolled in a five-foot eagle putt.

Taylor came into the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open off a tie for 10th in Napa, California, last week.

He said the results have been building over the past year.

"Not much I'm not comfortable with right now, which is always a good thing," said Taylor, who was once the top-ranked amateur in the world.

"If I hit it on the greens, I've been able to manage pars, capitalize on birdies, so overall (it's) been relatively easy."

Harman also made things look simple, nabbing seven birdies in a seven-under par 64 to stand alone in second.

American Maverick McNealy had joined Taylor at eight-under through 16 holes, but he closed with back-to-back bogeys.

McNealy found the water at the par-three 17th and three-putted 18 from 42 feet -- missing a six-footer for par -- to fall into a group of five players sharing third on 65.

- Mickelson 'excited' -

That bunch also included Mickelson, who shook off an opening bogey at the 10th hole to post seven birdies in his six-under effort.

"After the bogey on the first hole, I played some really good golf," Mickelson said. "I kept the ball in play and hit a lot of fairways. Right now, my iron play is really good, and so if I continue to give myself chances from the fairways I'm going to hit it close enough to make birdies."

Mickelson, 49, said he was finally feeling the benefits of a renewed focus on a healthy lifestyle.

He said he'd shed some weight thanks to improved diet and a workout regimen. The results hadn't shown much when he missed the cut last week in Napa.

But his 65 on Thursday matched the best round he'd posted since his win at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am last February -- a victory that was followed by months of disappointing results.

"Excited to play some good golf again," Mickelson added.

A dozen players were tied on five-under 66, a group that featured Australian Adam Scott and American Chase Koepka, younger brother of world number one Brooks Koepka.

Brooks Koepka, making his first start of the 2019-2020 season, looked a little rusty in carding a one-under par 70 that included five birdies and four bogeys.

Koepka revealed this week that he had stem cell injection therapy on his left knee in September to treat a partially torn patella tendon.

The American, who won a second straight PGA Championship in 2019, also shared second at the Masters behind Woods and was second at the US Open behind Gary Woodland. He was equal fourth at the British Open -- and said with knee pain behind him he is primed for even better things this season.

"I can finally practice again, which is nice, without pain," he said.