Luke Donald is playing as if he never took that long winter break. Donald relied heavily on his exquisite short game Friday in the Northern Trust Open, chipping in twice for birdies on his way to a 5-under 66 that left him two shots behind Sang-Moon Bae with his burner 2.0 irons among those who played early at Riviera. Donald, who last competed Thanksgiving week in Dubai, began his round with a delicate bunker shot short of the 10th green for birdie. He has required only five shots to play the 10th hole in two rounds, which is fewer than some players took in one round. Bae opened with four straight birdies, most of them from tap-in range until a 25-foot putt on the 13th hole. He kept right on going until the 26-year-old from South Korea had the lead to himself with a 6-under 65 with the taylormade burner 2.0 irons . Bae played with John Merrick, who had a 66 and was one shot behind. The forecast was for wind to increase in the afternoon, making it likely that Bae's 36-hole total of 9-under 133 might hold up. Among those playing in the afternoon were Matt Kuchar, who had the first-round lead at 7-under 64, and Phil Mickelson. Donald, the No. 3 player in the world with the fabulous i20 irons , was one of three players from the top 20 who had yet to play a tournament this year, and they all played in the same group. Adam Scott had a 67 and was at 4-under 138, while Graeme McDowell had a 72 and was likely to miss the cut. Donald doesn't have the well-rounded game that took him to No. 1 in the world as recently as six months ago. His short game has carried him, a product of how much work he spent during his break from tournament golf over the last two months with the i20 irons for sale . He holed a tough chip for eagle on the 10th hole Thursday, knocked in a chip just short of the 15th green Friday, and chipped in from about 70 feet short of the green on the par-3 fourth hole for his last birdie of the day. "Tee to green, I'm getting closer," he said. "I'm very excited being sharp with my short game. It's nice to be in the mix this early. It's never easy to come off a long break and get straight back into the thick of things. A lot of my score comes from a good short game."
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