Golf: Brandt Snedeker leads PGA Tour Safeway Open by three, Phil Mickelson in hunt

Brandt Snedeker leads at the halfway point with a 13-under 131 after carding a second-round 65. PHOTO: AFP/GETTY IMAGES

SAN FRANCISCO (AFP) - Brandt Snedeker may not think much of Phil Mickelson's talent-judging skills, but he is convinced "Lefty" can keep his job on the PGA Tour for a few more years.

Mickelson told Snedeker heading into the Safeway Open that he had low expectations for the season-opening tournament because he was hitting the ball so poorly - and then went out and blasted a first-round 65.

The 48-year-old Mickelson followed that up with a stellar 69 on Friday (Oct 5). He is sitting just three strokes back of Snedeker, who leads at the halfway point with a 13-under 131 after carding a second-round 65.

"I texted him. I gave him a hard time because he told me he's playing terrible and then he goes out and shoots six birdies in a row," Snedeker said.

"I said, 'Really, you are a great judge of talent'."

Mickelson was tied for second at 10 under with fellow Americans Michael Thompson (65) and Ryan Moore, who shot his second straight 67 at the Silverado Resort and Spa in Napa, California.

Mickelson admitted he was fatigued this week. He came into the tournament fresh off a disappointing appearance at the Ryder Cup, where he went 0-2 as the Americans suffered a devastating 17.5-10.5 defeat by Team Europe in France.

"It's a crazy game," he said. "My expectations were nil but I did a lot of good shots. I am surprised.

"Eventually some of my putts started to drop. I am putting too well not to make putts."

That included a 39-foot-birdie putt on the par-three seventh hole.

"He's confident now being where he is," Snedeker said of the three-time Masters winner Mickelson. "As the course gets tougher he is going to play better."

Snedeker drained eight birdies, including three in a row starting at the par-four fourth hole.

He finished 2017-18 with added confidence after shooting a 59 in August en route to capturing the Wyndham Championship for his ninth title on the US tour.

Most of the game's biggest names are taking time off after the rigours of the FedEx Cup play-offs and will not return until January.

This opens the door for a collection of Tour graduates to try and cement their status on the main tour.

First-round leader Sepp Straka of Australia shot an even-par 72 and was tied for fifth with Im Sung-jae (69) and Kevin Tway (67).

England's Danny Willett, Scotland's Russell Knox and American's Scott Piercy and 2013 PGA Championship winner Jason Dufner missed the cut.

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