Sam Burns builds 5-shot lead at halfway point at Riviera

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Sam Burns tees off on the ninth hole during the second round of the Genesis Invitational golf tournament at Riviera Country Club, Friday, Feb. 19, 2021, in the Pacific Palisades area of Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ryan Kang)

LOS ANGELES – Sam Burns wanted to pay respect to tough Riviera by playing it safe. It led to a 5-under 66 on Friday to tie the 36-hole record at the Genesis Invitational and build a five-shot lead going into the weekend.

Among those chasing is Dustin Johnson, the No. 1 player in the world and a past winner at Riviera. Another shot back was Jordan Spieth, who is starting to make himself at home near the top of the leaderboard.

Burns kept his bogey-free day intact toward the end of the round when he came up short of the eighth green, his 17th of the morning. He chipped it about 10 feet short — anything too strong could lead to big trouble — and made the par putt.

He also handled two of the par 5s, and picked up so much roll on the firm turf at the 476-yard 12th hole that he had only a pitching wedge into the green and made a 5-foot putt.

“Whenever we were kind of in a tricky spot, just kind of took what the golf course gave us,” Burns said. “There's definitely times where I've tried to force it a little bit, but this just is not a golf course you want to do that.”

Burns was at 12-under 130, matching the record last set in 2004 by Mike Weir and Shigeki Maruyama.

Johnson led a group at 7-under 135 despite playing the three par 5s in only 1 under for the week. Part of the problem is that Johnson has hit only one fairway on the par 5s. That was the final one he played Friday, the 17th, and it set up a simple up-and-down that moved him a little closer.

He also has a simple solution to improve his par-5 performance.