(Reuters) - Little-known Brice Garnett took control of the Crowne Plaza Invitational in Texas on Friday as world number one Adam Scott ended a frustrating day on the greens with a long birdie putt at the last to finish six shots off the pace.
Scott, who replaced Tiger Woods as golf's leading player on Monday, was in danger of missing the cut after an unimpressive front nine but found his game in time to avoid an embarrassing early exit from Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth.
"I've got to have a low 60 tomorrow and try and get myself in with a realistic shout on Sunday," Australian Scott told Golf Channel after shooting a two-under-par 68 for a one-under 139 halfway total.
"I was a little shaky of the tee on the front side (but) I just started hitting some good shots on the back nine."
The 33-year-old picked up shots from close range at the 12th and 13th holes and his closing birdie, from 20 feet after hitting a nice approach shot from a divot, certainly boosted his spirits as he extended the PGA Tour's longest cut streak to 34.
"I felt really good coming in," Scott said. "Hopefully it was a sign of what's to come on the weekend. Tomorrow is an important day for me now."
While Scott attracted a large afternoon gallery, the unheralded Garnett was barely noticed as he took control of the tournament by firing a 66 in the morning to head fellow Americans Chris Stroud (64) and Robert Streb (68) by one stroke.
The FedExCup points leader Jimmy Walker (68) was two shots off the pace after almost collecting a birdie of the feathered variety at the 17th hole, where his ball appeared to brush a bird high in the sky just after the apex of his tee shot. First round leader Dustin Johnson (70) was also two strokes back.
"I haven't hit the ball great this year but typically the strength of my game is hitting fairways and greens," said Garnett. "I'm just trying to hit as many greens as possible and I've had the putter working so far."
Garnett, 30, is having a decent first season on the U.S. circuit and occupies 101st place in the FedExCup standings.
"Each and every week the rookies feel more comfortable," he said.
"I know I have. You may not get into some tournaments you'd like but it's been fun and I'm learning each and every day."
Just eight strokes separate the 75 players who made the cut. World number four Matt Kuchar, who could have gone to top spot with a victory this week, instead bowed out early, only his second missed cut since the PGA Championship in August, 2012.
(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes)