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5-way tie at top of low-scoring Shriners Open

To say scores are low at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open this week would be an understatement. Birdies are coming in record numbers.

The cut at TPC Summerlin came Friday night at 7-under. It’s the lowest number for a cut since the PGA Tour began keeping statistics in 1970.

“Around here, you have to make so many birdies,” said Patrick Cantlay, one of five co-leaders at a midway point that has a familiar feel to it.

Past champions Cantlay, Bryson DeChambeau and Martin Laird are all hovering at or near the top. So, too, are a pair of major championship winners — Sergio Garcia and Stewart Cink — who have rediscovered their games in recent weeks.

Mix in a handful of other players, and the weekend arrives at TPC Summerlin with 12 players within two shots of the lead.

Cantlay, Laird, Austin Cook, Peter Malnati and Brian Harman are setting the pace at 14-under, with DeChambeau one back. Cink and Garcia lead a large group two behind.

Scoring was again low on Friday as near-perfect conditions again greeted players at TPC Summerlin.

“It never feels like I’m stressing because it feels like there are so many birdie holes,” said Cantlay, who carded a 65 on Friday. “It actually allows me to be patient.”

Cantlay won this event in 2017 and finished second the past two years. In his last 10 rounds at TPC Summerlin, he is 57-under par.

“With the success I’ve had it’s easy to be confident around here,” said Cantlay.

Like Cantlay, Laird has had plenty of success in Las Vegas, but it’s been a while. He won the event in 2009, then lost a playoff the following year when Jonathan Byrd made a hole-in-one on the fourth extra hole.

“I feel like it’s definitely a course that some local knowledge (helps),” he said. “I kind of know where to hit it around here and know the holes you just play a little more conservative and the holes you can play aggressive.”

One of those holes is the ninth, where Laird finished his round with an eagle. Resting 238 yards out in the rough, Laird launched a 5-iron to 3 feet for an easy eagle and a share of the lead.

Malnati finished second last week in Mississippi, and he has continued the hot play in Las Vegas. His 62 was the low round of the day Friday, with seven birdies and a closing eagle on No. 9.

Harman quietly shot 63 on Friday and is bogey-free going into the weekend, while Cook birdied his first three holes on his way to 65 and a share of the lead.

DeChambeau lurks one behind the lead after a pedestrian 67 on Friday. Eagles on No.7, thanks to a 373-yard drive, and No. 16, where he hit driver-pitching wedge into the par 5, were the highlights

“I definitely left some shots out there, but I made a few great shots,” said the U.S. Open champion. “So I can’t be too displeased with that.”

A pair of eagles are what got Cink into the mix as he shot 63 to match Laird for the low round of the day. A winner last month in Napa, Cink had his putter to thank on Friday, making a combined 133 feet of putts during the round.

“It’s just fun to get out there and wail on the driver and see the shots,” Cink said. “Golf is a fun game when you got things going right.”

The same is true for Garcia, who broke a long victory drought last week in Mississippi and is looking to make it two wins in two weeks. The only time he’s done that was in 2011 on the European Tour.

A hole-out for eagle from the sixth fairway was the key to his 64.

“It would’ve been nicer to do with crowds, but even without crowds it was still very nice,” he said.

Greg Robertson is a freelance reporter who covers golf for the Review-Journal. He can be reached at robertsongt@gmail.com

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