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Putnam goes on birdie blitz to take Shell lead

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HUMBLE, Texas – Last year Andrew Putnam made his PGA Tour debut as a professional at the Shell Houston Open, missing the cut after surviving a Monday qualifier.

Things have gone decidedly better this time around.

As the crowds began to dissipate Friday at the Golf Club of Houston, Putnam went on a late birdie blitz to cap a 7-under 65 that gave him the lead at the halfway point of the Shell Houston Open.  

Putnam birdied six of his final seven holes, including four in a row from Nos. 3-6 en route to a 6-under 30 on his inward half. The rookie holds a solo lead for the first time on the PGA Tour, one shot clear of Phil Mickelson and Monday qualifier Austin Cook.

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“The putter started rolling and the ball started going in the hole,” Putnam said. “I don’t know what my strokes were on the backside, but must have been pretty good with the putting.”

After graduating from the Tour, Putnam has had a slow start to his first season in the big leagues. While he finished T-12 at the McGladrey Classic in November, Putnam’s seven starts this year have yielded five missed cuts and only one top-50 finish.

“I haven’t been playing good or scoring well,” he said. “Both have been bad. Doing both well this week.”

Putnam often has to fight for bragging rights on the course even among his own family – his brother, Michael, was the Player of the Year in 2013 and is tied for 12th through 36 holes in Houston. But right now the spotlight belongs to the younger Putnam as Andrew, 26, eyes a breakthrough win – even though holding off the likes of Mickelson, Jordan Spieth and J.B. Holmes will be no small feat.

“Golf is always a mental battle no matter where you’re at,” Putnam said. “It will be an interesting challenge. Haven’t been there before, so we’ll see what it brings.”