World number three Luke Donald put himself firmly in contention as Bae Sang-moon and Fredrik Jacobson shared the lead at the halfway stage of the Northern Trust Open in California.
England’s Donald, playing his first tournament since November, produced a five-under 66 to sit seven under overall, two off the leading pair of South Korea’s Bae and Sweden’s Jacobson on nine under.
Donald, 18th overnight, carded seven birdies against two bogeys to end day two fifth – and he could have been in a share of third alongside Americans John Merrick and John Rollins but for a dropped shot on his penultimate hole, the par-four eighth.
Donald told Pgatour.com: “Happy with my score, obviously coming off a pretty good break, you never know with how you’re going to deal with being back in competition again but certainly a big improvement today, ball striking wise and my short game has been very sharp.
“I’ve been excited about that. It’s been a big key to my score so far, and, yeah, excited to be in the mix again.”
On the top of the pile though were Jacobson and Bae, both of whom were six under for the day to climb from sixth to joint first.
For Jacobson it was a continuation of the form which saw him finish seventh at Pebble Beach last week.
“Obviously I take a lot out of that, just being in contention again,” Jacobson said. “I’ve had some good practice sessions before, but to bring it on the course and play under pressure, that’s what it’s about.”
There was no room to relax, though, with a number of notable names on the heels of the top five.
World number eight Lee Westwood headed up a group of three players on six under, which also included major winners Charl Schwartzel and Webb Simpson.
Overnight leader Matt Kuchar was among the players on five under having carded a two-over 73, as was defending champion Bill Haas, while Sergio Garcia, Adam Scott, Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson were all four under.
Big names to miss the cut included Graeme McDowell, Dustin Johnson, Padraig Harrington, Mike Weir, Zach Johnson, Geoff Ogilvy, Bubba Watson and Lucas Glover.