June 11, 2016 / 12:57 AM / in a year

Berger leads in Memphis, Mickelson four back

(Reuters) - Daniel Berger stormed to the top of the FedEx St. Jude Classic leaderboard with the lowest score of the week, a six-under-par 64 in Friday’s second round, though the ominous figure of golfing heavyweight Phil Mickelson was in hot pursuit.

Jun 10, 2016; Memphis, TN, USA; Daniel Berger at TPC Southwind. Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

American Berger, the PGA Tour’s rookie of the year last season after recording two second placings among his 13 top-25 finishes, jumped three shots clear of his closest pursuers at the TPC Southwind in Memphis with a nine-under halfway total of 131.

Little-known American Tom Hoge (69) was alone in second, with Mickelson, a five-times major winner who next week will head to Oakmont searching for a first U.S. Open victory after a record six runner-up spots, joint third on five-under after a 65.

”I am putting well, no question,“ Mickelson told PGA Tour radio. ”I didn’t strike it as well as I have been this year for the first couple of days. It’s just a fraction off and I‘m going to go work on it now.

“Hopefully I can figure out what the difference is because if I can hit a few more greens, the way I am putting, I should have a good chance (of winning).”

Equal third with Mickelson were fellow Americans Brooks Koepka (65) and long-hitting Dustin Johnson, who got to eight under before dropping three shots in his last two holes for a 69.

Johnson, the 2012 champion, bogeyed the 17th after bunkering his approach before running up a double at the last, where he three-putted from seven feet.

”I played a lot better than my score,“ said Johnson, a nine-times winner on the PGA Tour. ”Making bogey and double on the last two holes from the middle of the fairway is not a very good finish. I just made a couple bad swings.

“I feel like I am playing really well, I got a lot of confidence in my game on this golf course, I just need to go out and shoot another good score tomorrow.”

Berger, whose father Jay was head coach of the 2012 U.S. Olympic tennis team, was delighted to go bogey-free after scrambling well while relying on a red-hot putter.

”My speed control has been great and on the greens, I feel like I am just at home,“ said the 23-year-old from Florida. ”I love the Bermuda (grass) and I don’t even read grain here.

“I just look at it and I see it, it’s just from years and years of putting on it. Overall just excited to play a bogey-free round.”

Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Andrew Both

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