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Alex Noren makes birdies early and late for 67, takes two-shot lead in Bermuda

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Alex Noren makes birdies early and late for 67, takes two-shot lead in Bermuda

    Written by The Associated Press

    SOUTHAMPTON, Bermuda — Alex Noren started with three birdies and then wondered if he would make another. He picked up two more late in the second round Friday and posted a 5-under 66 for a two-shot lead going into the weekend at the Butterfield Bermuda Championship.

    Noren finally got a putt to fall on the par-4 15th, added a birdie on the par-5 17th and wound up setting the tournament tournament record at 15-under 127.

    He had a two-shot lead over Ryan Moore (64), and Satoshi Kodaira and Ryan Brehm, who each shot a 65, as the wind at Port Royal Golf Club began to at least cause some doubt.

    Noren felt he played about the same as he did on Thursday when he opened with a 61, with one big exception.

    “The wedges came up 15 feet instead of 5, and had a bunch of tap-ins yesterday,” he said. “The greens ... it’s quite a lot of slope and quite a lot of grain. The first three birdies I just kind of rolled in, and then it was a little trickier.”

    Alex Noren takes two-stroke lead into the weekend at Butterfield Bermuda

    Moore played bogey-free, one day after he felt he could barely keep the ball on the golf course and was saved by his putting. That gave him a jolt of confidence that he didn’t have to hit it great to score well, and it carried over to the second round.

    The timing is critical. Moore, a former Ryder Cup player, is at No. 140 in the FedExCup standings. The PGA TOUR season ends next week and the top 125 keep full-status PGA TOUR cards. For players like Moore, it’s time to deliver.

    “It’s time to do it or you don’t, right?” Moore said. “Fortunately for me this week, I’ve been doing it better and feel a little bit better. Built some confidence on my last couple weeks, just different parts of my game starting to work better and that’s what you want to see. Hopefully, it stays that way.”

    Brehm started 64-65 and he can only hope this is a repeat from another island. The Michigan native had never had a top 10 on the PGA TOUR until he won the Puerto Rico Open in 2022. He hasn’t had a top 10 since then.

    He already is exempt for next year, though another out-of-nowhere victory would get him back to Kapalua to start the year and to the Masters for the first time.

    Camilo Villegas, a runner-up last week in Mexico, had a 63 and was in the group three shots behind. The Colombian moved from No. 223 last week to No. 147. The top 150 have conditional status next year, but Villegas now has reason to make it all the way to a full card.

    Camilo Villegas reaches in two to set up birdie at Butterfield Bermuda

    “Two good rounds to get started, same as last week,” Villegas said. “Two good rounds to get started and we’re only halfway there, but we’ll keep playing.”

    Former Open Championship winner Stewart Cink, who turned 50 this year and has dabbled on the PGA TOUR Champions, had a 67 and was among those at 11-under 131.

    Adam Scott played in the morning and shot 67 to get to within five shots of the lead, along with NCAA champion Fred Biondi, who had a 64.

    Noren didn’t get frustrated when he followed three straight birdies with 11 straight pars.

    “It helps when you had a good round the previous day,” Noren said. “You’re not necessarily struggling, not frustrated, it’s just that, ‘What am I doing different? Am I trying too hard or start asking caddie for the reads?’ He helps me off and on with the reads, but it’s probably better that I just feel the putts and trust my instinct. That’s what I did yesterday. You’ve got to just stay with it.”

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