Marino surges four shots clear

Steve Marino has taken sole possession of the lead at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am after a second-round 66.

A sparkling second-round six-under 66 has given Steve Marino sole possession of the lead at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

It has also put him four shots clear of the chasing pack

The American, playing on the Pebble Beach course, posted seven birdies for the second successive day but dropped his first shot for the tournament on the par-five 14th.

It was a temporary hiccup.

He recovered magnificently to birdie three of the final four holes, the last with a 15-foot putt to go to a dominant 13-under at the halfway stage.

D.A. Points started the day in a share of the lead with Marino but had to recover from a rugged start at the Spyglass Hill course to post a two-under 70 to remain in second place.

Setting out on the back nine, Points pulled back a dropped shot on his first hole with a birdie on the 10th but dropped further strokes at 13 and 14.

He improved after the turn with three straight birdies and looked to be closing in on Marino when he picked up another stroke at the seventh, only to drop back to nine-under at the eighth.

Keegan Bradley lies one shot further back in third after a 69 at Spyglass Hill while Padraig Harrington, who is playing in the same group with Marino, is the only non-American among the 10 players tied for fourth at seven-under.

On a beautiful day day with barely a breath of wind at beautiful Pebble Beach, Marino fashioned matching nines of three-under 33 to take control of the tournament and heading into the weekend rounds with his confidence high.

“I’ve hit the ball great and my short game has been great,” he told the media after his closing three-in-four-holes birdie-burst.

“Really hasn’t been a weakness to my game over the last two days. I’ve just capitalised on most of my opportunities.”

With the players required to play one round on each of the three venues over the first three days, Marino is not getting carried away.

“It’s too early to look ahead,” he said. “I’ve got one more round left at a different golf course, so I’m not really feeling it at all right now.

“Come Saturday night, if I’m in the same position I am right now, it’s definitely going to feel different. Right now I’m just looking forward to playing Monterey Peninsula tomorrow.”

Marino has been a runner-up three times in his PGA Tour career, but never a winner.

He made his biggest headlines until now when he shared the 36-hole lead with Tom Watson at the 2009 British Open.

“It gave me a lot confidence knowing I could compete and lead in a major championship,” he said, looking back at his heady moments at Turnberry before he slipped back to finishin 38th place.

Harrington, in the meantime, was disappointed with his 68, saying it did not truly reflect how well he had played.

“I should be a few (shots) better,” he said. “But it’s been very relaxed. It’s so easy to play good golf when you’re playing partner (Marino) is playing well and you see him making birdies.”

World No 4 Phil Mickelson, a three-times winner at Pebble Beach, shrugged away a poor first round and came charging back with a flawless five-under 67 at Spyglass Hill to climb up the leaderboard into a tie for 24th at four under.

But fellow American Dustin Johnson chances of winning a third successive Pebble Beach Pro-Am title seemed to have disolved with the second-round 71 at Spyglass that has left him trailing Marino by a distant 13 strokes.