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Haas storms into contention

LOS ANGELES (AFP) – Bill Haas defied difficult weather conditions to thrust himself into contention on Friday at the US PGA Tour Safeway Open, where Scott Piercy remained atop the leaderboard when darkness halted the rain-delayed second round.

Haas, playing in the marquee group on Thursday and Friday with Phil Mickelson and defending champion Emiliano Grillo, teed off early in the worst of the wind and rain in Napa, California, north of San Francisco.

They played just three holes before play was suspended.

“If we had not gotten to stop, it would have been very difficult for us,’’ Haas said. ‘’Those three holes we started with this morning were very difficult. You couldn’t really even see your ball, it was raining and windy.’’

After a delay of more than two hours, Haas returned and completed a two-under par 70 that gave him an eight-under total of 136 and the clubhouse lead.

Piercy, who fired a course-record 62 on Thursday, was four-under through 10 holes when play was halted, and atop the leaderboard on 14-under par.

Piercy’s day was highlighted by a hole out for eagle at the par-five ninth hole.

American Johnson Wagner was 12-under through 14 holes and England’s Paul Casey was 11-under through 12 when play was halted for the day.

Casey was three-under four the day after five birdies and two bogeys.

World number 12 Casey – who finished the 2015-16 season with back-to-back runner-up finishes and a fourth-place at the US PGA Tour Championship – says he’s looking at the first tournament of the US PGA Tour’s 2016-17 season not so much as a fresh start, but as a chance to finish out the calendar year on a high note.

He’s seeking his first US PGA Tour title since 2009.