Adam Scott had a breakthrough with his short game this winter, and it’s so good now that he hardly even has to use it.
Scott had a putt for birdie on 16 holes in a second round that was without a bogey and without much stress. He wound up with a 5-under 66 that left him one shot behind 31-year-old rookie Shawn Stefani among the early starters Friday at the Tampa Bay Championship in Palm Harbor, Fla.
Stefani had to scramble more that he would have preferred, though he converted all the putts he felt he was supposed to in his round of 70.
Stefani was at 7-under 135.
Of the late starters, John Daly took himself out of the mix early with a 10 on the third hole. It was the 15th time Daly has made at least a 10 on the PGA Tour.
Scott hasn’t shown much scar tissue from making bogeys on the last four holes to lose the British Open last summer. He finished the year by winning the Australian Masters, though it was a month later when he was working on his game at home on the Gold Coast that he experienced a significant turnaround with his short game.
‘‘Just had a really nice feeling going that day, whatever it was, and I managed to get through the whole shag bag of balls hitting every chip the same,’’ he said. ‘‘Everything was very controlled and consistent. . . . I’ve felt my confidence grow on the course with the pitching and chipping.’’
Scott said when he was hitting the ball poorly in 2009, it put extraordinary pressure on his short game because he was missing greens. In this case, he said a solid short game has relieved any tension in the long game, and it’s starting to show.
He closed with a 68-64 on the weekend at Doral, and carried that to a tougher Copperhead course at Innisbrook.
Stefani only knows where Augusta is on the map. He would have to win to get to the Masters, and while the tournament is only halfway over, each round gives him a little more confidence. He finally made his first bogey of the tournament on the seventh hole, and then rebounded with a 5-iron to 10 feet for birdie on the par-3 eighth.
He hit another high cut with a 5-iron on the 220-yard 15th hole for a short birdie.
Harris English made four birdies on the tough par 3s to atone for not making up any ground on the par 5s. That gave him a 69, leaving him two shots behind with close friend and fellow Georgia alum Brian Harman (70) and Jason Dufner (66).
Masters hopeful Geoff Ogilvy was on the ropes Friday morning with a 39 on the back nine. He birdied three of his last four holes for a 72 and wound up only six shots behind Stefani.
LPGA — In Phoenix, Jee Young Lee birdied three of the last four holes to take a one-stroke lead over Ai Miyazato on another hot day at the LPGA Founders Cup.
Lee, who won the tour’s 2005 South Korean event, had a bogey-free 8-under 64 to reach 15-under 129 and break the tournament 36-hole record. She played in the morning before the temperature climbed into the low 90s.
Miyazato bogeyed her final hole for a 67 a day after shooting a tournament-record 63.
Third-ranked Stacy Lewis, coming off a victory two weeks ago in Singapore, was four strokes back after a 65.
European — Chapchai Nirat and Liang Wenchong each shot a 6-under 66 to tie for the lead after the second round of the Avantha Masters, two strokes ahead of four others. Chapchai and Liang were even at 132 in Greater Noida, India.
Champions — David Frost shot an 8-under 63 to take a one-stroke lead over Fred Couples after the first round of the Toshiba Classic in Newport Beach, Calif.