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Published: 11:54 | 12/3/16

MacKenzie and Stricker on top

Pair share lead in Florida

Will MacKenzie thanked improvements in putting for helping him to secure a surprise share of the lead alongside Steve Stricker at the midway point of the Valspar Championship.

MacKenzie has made only five cuts in 11 PGA Tour tournaments so far this season, struggling with his short game in particular, but changing to a claw grip and shifting the ball forward in his stance has produced a significant improvement.

The North Carolinian's four-under-par 67 at Innisbrook Resort on Friday left him on five-under for the tournament with Stricker at the top of the leaderboard, with two rounds to play.

"I'm hitting a lot of good, tough shots, but I'm also hitting it kind of bad," MacKenzie explained. "I just need to clean that up. I know what I'm doing in my golf swing, but the putter is just saving my life right now.

"The claw's not necessarily going to keep working; let's not get ahead of ourselves.

"You know, you can't play great, you cannot even play remotely well putting poorly. You need to be able to putt decently to at least make a decent amount of money."

Jordan Spieth, the defending champion, was in danger of missing the cut but a three-under second-round 68 allowed the world number one to secure a spot in the weekend's action on two-over.

Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke failed to make the cut at Palm Harbor but an even-par 71 saw Irishman Padraig Harrington force his way into the final two rounds.

At the top of the leaderboard, Daniel Berger, Graham DeLaet and Bill Haas trail MacKenzie and Stricker by just a stroke, with Scott Brown, Retief Goosen, Ryan Moore, Justin Thomas, Charles Howell and Jerry Kelly a further shot back.

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