SHANGHAI (AP) — Fredrik Jacobson didn't see many low scores when he first arrived at Sheshan International for the HSBC Champions. Such scores were all around him Friday when his 6-under 66 was barely enough to take the lead.
Under a heavy, overcast sky on a course that was softened by rain earlier in the week, Jacobson played bogey-free and finished a solid round by hitting 3-iron into the par-4 ninth for a final birdie.
He was at 11-under 133, tying the 36-hole tournament record, and was one shot ahead of Louis Oosthuizen and Adam Scott. PGA champion Keegan Bradley made two key par saves on the back round when his game started to get away from him and salvaged a 70 to stay in the picture just two shots behind.
Oosthuizen and Scott each birdied half of their holes and were flawless from tee-to-green. Oosthuizen avoided trouble and posted a tournament-best 63, while Scott had two bogeys in his round of 65.
Sixteen players were separated by five shots going into the weekend, a group that included Lee Westwood, Malaysia winner Bo Van Pelt and Paul Casey, who lost his PGA Tour card in an injury-filled season and now has a chance to get it back by winning.
"I didn't see those kind of scores when I played my practice round before we had that rain," Jacobson said. "The greens were quite firm. They were in great shape. I think that they softened up a little bit and then we managed to stay away from the rain for most of the two days. It kind of opened up a little bit of an opportunity to make some more birdies."
Several players did just that.
Oosthuizen, struggling in the year after his British Open win at St. Andrews, only recently started to find some form when he finished fourth in the McGladrey Classic. Friday was a bonus, especially seeing so many putts drop for a change.
"If you're hitting good shots, you get rewarded," Oosthuizen said. "There's a few holes where you can take it on or lay it up. Today, I really didn't take much risk. I just made the birdie putts."
The low scoring was best visible through Scott and two guys in his group – Bradley and Westwood. They combined to make 16 birdies and an eagle, each taking turns going at the flags.
Scott ran off four straight birdies early in his round, capped off by a 7-iron from 190 yards into 3 feet on the par-3 sixth. It looked as though he might make it five in a row until he tried to jam in a 12-foot birdie putt, ran it some 5 feet by the hole and three-putted for bogey. No worries – he birdied the next two holes and kept right on going.
Scott finished with consecutive birdies, rolling in a 20-foot putt on the 17th and a wedge that spun back to 5 feet on the 18th.
"I'm pleased to be in touch, but obviously scoring is low so I'm going to have to play well on the weekend to keep in touch," Scott said.
The Australian has a chance to join Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson as the only players to win multiple World Golf Championships in the same year. Woods did it five times, while Mickelson won at Doral and the HSBC in 2009.
"That would be a really good year, I think," Scott said. "These are the tournaments that you want to add up by the end of your career."
Even more is at stake for Bradley, who didn't realize until he arrived in Shanghai that he still had a chance at PGA Tour player of the year if he were to win the HSBC Champions for a tour-leading third title. It counts as official on the PGA Tour if a tour member wins it.
Bradley hit a hybrid 3-iron into 40 feet on the second hole and made the long putt for eagle, then added another birdie on the par-3 fourth hole to reach 10 under. But after a bogey on the ninth, his momentum slowed drastically.
He missed the green to the left on No. 11 and left himself a chip up a steep slope with the pin about four paces on. The chip didn't quite reach the green, but the PGA champion holed the putt to save par.
On the 15th, from rough so deep he could barely see his ball, Bradley hammered it out just short of the green. After watching Scott come up short with a chip, Bradley sent his putt some 12 feet by the hole, and made that one for par.
He missed his tee shot on the next three holes, but recovered on the 18th by laying up from thick grass and hitting a wedge to 5 feet for birdie to stay easily in range.
"The birdie on 18 was big," Bradley said. "Today could have easily been even par, and I was 2 under. I'm only two shots back. I'm in a really good spot. I know I could shoot a really good number on this course again."