Bae Sang-moon is off to another great start at the Northern Trust Open. The next step is a better finish.
Bae shot a five-under 66, giving him a one-stroke lead over Aaron Baddeley and Robert Garrigus when the second round was suspended by darkness on Friday. Baddeley, who won at Riviera three years ago, birdied his last four holes for a 65. Garrigus had a 67.
Dustin Johnson, who led after the first round at five-under 66, opened with two birdies, but never got any closer. He had a 70 and joined Jim Furyk (68) among those three shots behind.
Bae was at nine-under 133.
The 27-year-old South Korean was tied for the lead going into the weekend at Riviera last year, but struggled to a 76 in the third round and never got back into contention.
“It was really, really good experience, and I learned a lot,” Bae said. “I improved a lot from last year.”
He wound up winning the Byron Nelson Championship a few months later for his first PGA Tour victory.
Patience surely will be required at some point over the weekend on what has shaped up as one of the best weeks of weather at Riviera — an abundance of sunshine and only a trace of wind.
Despite what would appear to be pristine scoring conditions, no one has reached double digits under par this week, a testament to one of the toughest golf courses on the Tour.
“It’s a strong course, especially when it’s dry and firm like it is,” Baddeley said. “If you miss it out of position, it’s really hard to get the ball up-and-down. Today was good, because I made a couple good saves, but coming in, I had some good looks and made them.”
While Bae is in the lead, the tournament remains wide open, with 22 players separated by only five shots.
One of them is Johnson, who dropped shots on the 12th and 15th holes and missed several good looks inside 12 feet. He was at six-under 136.
“I played pretty solid today, just hit a couple of bad drivers on the back. But that’s going to happen,” Johnson said. “But I still had a lot of really good looks at birdie and just couldn’t capitalize on any of them.”
Among those missing the cut was Matt Kuchar, who failed to qualify for the weekend for the first time since the 2012 PGA Championship. His streak of 30 straight cuts was the longest active on tour, though still behind the record of 142 by Tiger Woods.
Baddeley was in the middle of the pack until he hit his approach on the 15th hole to about eight feet. The Australian followed with a short birdie putt on the par-three 16th, rolled in a birdie putt from 15 feet on the par-five 17th and finished it off with a 25-foot birdie on the 18th.
Garrigus has made the cut only once in four previous trips to the Northern Trust Open. He decided to bring a new attitude and it seems to be working.
“I have pretty good willpower, so as soon as I stepped on the first hole this week, I’m like, ‘I absolutely love this place...’ And I’m really starting to like it,” Garrigus said.
Not so fortunate was Fred Couples, who had a tiny cut on the tip of his left thumb that opened up to the size of a dime, making it difficult for him to hang onto the club. Couples has gone his entire Hall of Fame career without wearing a glove.
Asked if it bothered him, he said: “Yeah. I couldn’t hit the ball.”
Couples made his 32nd appearance in this tournament, but after shooting a two-over 144 was certain to miss the cut.