Golf: Flurry of birdies gives Varner early second-round lead


(Reuters) – Harold Varner III opened with a triple bogey and closed with a flurry of five birdies over his last six holes to surge into the early second-round lead at the Charles Schwab Challenge in Fort Worth, Texas on Friday.

Playing the back nine first at the spectatorless Colonial Country Club, Varner got his day off to a horrific start with a triple at the par four 10th but hit back with birdies at 12, 13 and 16 to return to level par.

He wobbled into the turn with a bogey at 18 but then jumped to the top of the leaderboard behind a run of four straight birdies from the fourth and another at his last for a four-under 66 and get to 11-under for the tournament.

Lurking one shot back is local favourite Jordan Spieth, who had his own troubles mid-round before recovering for a five-under 65.

Also playing the back nine first, Spieth, who began the day two shots off the lead, rocketed to the top of the leaderboard with six birdies through his opening 11 holes but then crashed out of top spot with a four-putt double bogey at the third followed by a bogey at the fourth.

Spieth, a three-time major champion, recovered with birdies at five and six to limit the damage and keep alive hopes of ending a three-year winless drought.

World number one Rory McIlroy staged a second-round charge, flirting with the course record before taking a bogey at his last for a seven-under 63 to sit two off the pace.

Until the final hole the Northern Irishman had been working on an error free round highlighted by a 23-foot putt for eagle at the par five first.

Birdies at two, six and seven put McIlroy at eight-under and one off the tournament record with two to play but his chances of 61 ended with a bogey as he joined Xander Schauffele (66) and Colin Morikawa (67) in the clubhouse at nine-under.

Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto; Editing by Ken Ferris