By Doug Ferguson | Associated Press
PALM HARBOR, Fla. -- Adam Scott had a breakthrough with his short game this winter, and it's so good now that he hardly even has to use it.
Scott had a putt for birdie on 16 holes in a second round that was without a bogey and without much stress. He wound up with a 5-under 66 that left him one shot behind 31-year-old rookie Shawn Stefani among the early starters Friday.
Stefani had to scramble more that he would have preferred, though he converted all the putts he felt he was supposed to make in his round of 70.
Stefani was at 7-under 135.
Colt Knost (Garrettsville) was at 1-over 143.
Of the late starters, John Daly took himself out of the mix early with a 10 on the third hole. It was the 15th time Daly has made at least a 10 on the PGA Tour.
Scott hasn't shown much scar tissue from making bogeys on the last four holes to lose the British Open last summer. He finished the year by winning the Australian Masters, though it was a month later when he was working on his game at home on the Gold Coast that he experienced a significant turnaround with his short game.
"Just had a really nice feeling going that day, whatever it was, and I managed to get through the whole shag bag of balls hitting every chip the same," he said. "Everything was very controlled and consistent. ... I've felt my confidence grow on the course with the pitching and chipping."
Scott said when he was hitting the ball poorly in 2009, it put extraordinary pressure on his short game because he was missing greens. In this case, he said a solid short game has relieved any tension in the long game, and it's starting to show.
He closed with a 68-64 on the weekend at Doral, and carried that to a tougher Copperhead course at Innisbrook.
The Australian has a limited schedule before his next crack at a major next month. The Tampa Bay Championship is only his fourth event this year (and fourth in the last five weeks), and then he plans to shut it down until going to Augusta National.
Stefani only knows where Augusta is on the map. He would have to win to get to the Masters. He finally made his first bogey of the tournament on the seventh hole, and then rebounded with a 5-iron to 10 feet for birdie on the par-3 eighth.