Jason Day was back in contention on the eve of the Masters after two eventful days alongside Phil Mickelson.
Winless in 2 1/2 years and fighting lingering back and neck problems, Day shot a 2-under 68 on Friday in the Houston Open to pull within two strokes of second-round leader Sam Burns at difficult Memorial Park.
The Australian watched the 50-year-old Michelson hit into the water twice en route to an 8 on the par-3 ninth, then hole out from 193 yards for eagle on the par-4 18th. Lefty missed the cut, following an opening 76 with a 73.
“He kind of left himself in some pretty tough positions and you’re just struggling the whole day,” Day said. “It’s one of those courses where you’ve just got to be patient and try to get your birdies when you can.”
Day had three birdies and a bogey.
Day was in contention three weeks ago in Las Vegas in the CJ Cup when the neck problem forced him to withdraw early in the final round. The 12-time PGA Tour winner returned the next week at Sherwood to tie for 60th, and took last week off.
“It’s been very inconsistent, obviously, because I’m trying to change my swing a little bit just to try and help the back out,” Day said. “I guess I’m stuck in between patterns right now, what I want to feel, my body just won’t handle it and sometimes it just compensates elsewhere. That’s why it happened to my neck at CJ.”
Canada’s Conners in the hunt
First-round leader Brandt Snedeker followed his opening 65 with a 71 to drop into a tie for fourth at 4 under with Dawie van der Walt (66), Corey Conners of Listowel, Ont. (67), Aaron Wise (66) and Patton Kizzire (67).
“Didn’t drive it as good today as I did yesterday and that’s going to put you behind the 8-ball here,” Snedeker said.
Mackenzie Hughes of Dundas, Ont., made it to the weekend, following an opening-round 70 with a 2-over 72.
David Hearn, from Brantford, Ont., (77) at 10-over missed the plus-3 cutline, while Graham DeLaet of Weyburn, Sask., pulled out before the second round after a 6-over 76 on day one.
Burns birdied all three par-5 holes in a bogey-free 65 to reach 7 under.”
Winless on the PGA Tour, the 24-year-old Burns also took a two-shot lead into the weekend in the season-opening Safeway Championship in September. He ended up tying for seventh that week at Silverado.
“I think slowing down a little bit, really talking through the shot with Travis [caddie Perkins] and making sure we have a clear picture of what we’re trying to do,” Burns said. “I think that was really helpful to learn that.”
Carlos Ortiz of Mexico had a 68 to match Day at 5 under.
Dustin Johnson surges up leaderboard
Top-ranked Dustin Johnson followed an opening 72 with a 66 to get to 2 under in his return after a positive coronavirus test knocked him out of the CJ Cup and Zozo Championship.
“It was very solid today,” Johnson said. ” I felt like I played pretty well yesterday, just a little rusty. … I swung it pretty well, just hit a couple bad iron shots. But I think that was more just from not trusting what I was doing, just from not being out there. But today did a lot better, hit a lot of really nice iron shots and felt like I managed my game very well, drove it well, hit a lot of quality shots.”
The tournament — at public Memorial Park for the first time since 1963 — is the first domestic PGA Tour event to have fans since March. Tickets are capped at 2,000 a day.
Brooks Koepka was 2 over after a 70 on the course where he served as a consultant on architect Tom Doak’s renovation. Koepka s playing for the second time since a two-month layoff to heal injuries.
Jordan Spieth, playing alongside Koepka, missed the cut with rounds of 73 and 71.