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Top-ranked Johnson shares Pebble Beach Pro-Am lead

SAN FRANCISCO: World number one Dustin Johnsonfired eight birdies in a seven-under par 64 on Friday to grab a share of thesecond-round lead alongside rookie Beau Hossler at the Pebble Beach NationalPro-Am, reports BSS.
Johnson, playing on the par-71 Monterey Peninsula course, one of three inuse for the tournament, had just one bogey as he gained ground on overnightco-leader Hossler.
Hossler, who played the par-72 Spyglass Hill, had five birdies in a five-under 67 that put him on 12-under as well.
The leading duo were two strokes in front of Julian Suri, who carded afour-under 67 at Monterey Peninsula to get to 10-under and Troy Merritt, whoshot a five-under 67 at Spyglass Hill.
Five-time major-winner Phil Mickelson, a four-time winner in thetournament that teams amateurs from the world of big business, sports andcelebrity with the pros, put himself in the mix for the weekend with a bogey-free 65 at Monterey Peninsula that left him tied for fifth on nine-under par.
“I am having fun,” said the 47-year-old American, who is seeking a 43rd USPGA Tour title and his first since the 2013 British Open.
He hit nine of 13 fairways and 15 of 18 greens in regulation but said heexpected a tougher challenge when he plays the par-72 Pebble Beach Golf Linkson Saturday. “I think Pebble’s a little bit tougher because the greens are a littlefirmer and smaller,” he said “But if you play well, you can birdie and scorelow on all three (courses).”
World number two Jon Rahm of Spain had five birdies without a bogey in his
five-under par 67 at Pebble Beach on Friday. That put him alongside Mickelson
in the group of six players sharing fifth place on nine-under, which also
included former world number one Jason Day who posted a six-under 65 atMonterey Peninsula.
Northern Ireland star Rory McIlroy, playing the tournament for the firsttime, was five-under for the tournament through 13 holes of the second roundwhen disaster struck at Monterey Peninsula’s driveable par-four fifth — his14th hole of the day.
The leading duo were two strokes in front of Julian Suri, who carded afour-under 67 at Monterey Peninsula to get to 10-under and Troy Merritt, whoshot a five-under 67 at Spyglass Hill.
He nearly drove the green and putted his eagle attempt to within 10 feet.But he needed four more putts from there, recording a double-bogey on thehole. He added two more bogeys on the way to a three-over 74. He was one-under for the tournament, with work to do on Saturday to makethe 54-hole cut.

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MANCHESTER, United Kingdom: Zlatan Ibrahimovicis nearing a return to fitness as Manchester United seek to strengthen theirgrip on second place in the Premier League when they visit Newcastle onSunday, reports BSS.
The former Paris Saint-Germain striker has struggled to get back to hisbest since suffering cruciate knee ligament damage during a Europa Leaguevictory over Anderlecht last April.
He made his comeback in the reverse fixture against Newcastle at OldTrafford in November, a match that Jose Mourinho’s side won 4-1, but has notplayed since late December due to concerns over his knee.
“Zlatan started training with the team two days ago,” said Mourinho onFriday. “So he has been two days with the group and is improving.”
Mourinho would be extremely cautious about throwing him straight back intoaction on Sunday, although his squad is otherwise in reasonably good health.
Defenders Eric Bailly and Daley Blind are both expected to return fromankle injuries before the end of February, although midfielder MarouaneFellaini will not make his comeback until March as he recovers from kneesurgery.
Last month’s defeat to Tottenham is the only blemish on United’s 2018 todate, with no goals conceded in their other six league and cup games so farthis year, all of which have been won.
A 2-0 victory over Huddersfield last week, in which new signing AlexisSanchez was outstanding, helped United make minor inroads into ManchesterCity’s colossal lead, although the gap was still 13 points going into thisweekend’s fixtures.
Making up that ground in 12 matches is a near-impossible task but full-back Antonio Valencia has made it clear that United must keep up the fight,even if only to delay the inevitable.
Valencia referred to the remarkable title race of 2012, when United led byeight points with six games left but ended up losing the title to ManchesterCity on the final day.
– ‘Keep fighting’ –
“We need to keep going,” he said. “A few years ago, we lost a title whenwe were eight points ahead and there were only a few games left. Now, we havea lot more games to play and we need to keep fighting.”
United’s best hope of a trophy this season is probably the FA Cup, inwhich United will visit Huddersfield for a fifth-round tie later this month,while they play Sevilla in the last-16 of the Champions League.
Islam Slimani is set to make his Newcastle debut on loan from Leicesterafter the Algeria forward recovered from a thigh problem.
Rafa Benitez’s side are in danger of an immediate return to theChampionship following an eight-game run in the league since their last homewin at the end of October.
Failure to beat a Manchester United side who have lost on just one oftheir past 13 visits to St James’s Park would see the hosts post their worsthome run for almost 19 years.
Slimani is confident his new side can turn the tide by extendingMourinho’s six-game winless run in the league on Tyneside.
“I’m ready if the manager needs me,” said the Magpies’ new arrival. “I’vesettled in well and am keen to help the team climb the table.”

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