Golf: South Korea's Bae grabs early Riviera lead

South Korea's Sang-moon Bae seized the clubhouse lead in the second round of the Northern Trust Open on Friday, positioning himself for a run at a first US PGA Tour title.

The 26-year-old from Daegu, in his second season on the US tour, took a conservative approach on the classic Riviera Country Club course and posted a six-under 65 for a nine-under total of 133.

With the afternoon starters -- including overnight leader Matt Kuchar -- just getting underway he was one stroke in front of American John Merrick, who carded a 66 for 134.

World number three Luke Donald of England also carded a 66 for 135.

"I feel like I played very well today," Bae said. "I hit a bunch of good shots. I made many good putts."

Bae said he also missed a couple of short ones -- that included a two-footer that failed to drop at the fifth hole, where he made one of his three bogeys of the day.

"It was not a big problem. These greens are a little tricky and soft and bumpy," Bae said. "Actually my putter is feeling at my best level -- I can make a 10- or 15-foot putt. I have confidence in my game."

Bae said he didn't fire at the flags, but tried to play to the center of Riviera's small greens.

"Keep it on the fairway and hit the greens," he said of a strategy that rewarded him with nine birdies, including four in a row to start his round from the 10th.

Donald, making his first competitive start of 2013, said his short game was sharp around the par-71 course in the Pacific Palisades, west of downtown Los Angeles.

"Obviously coming off a pretty good break you never know how you're going to deal with being back in competition again, but certainly a big improvement today ball-striking wise and my short game has been very sharp," he said.

Donald also teed off on 10 and finished with seven birdies and two bogeys.

His cause was helped by three birdie putts from the fringe, a 41-footer at the par-four 15th, a 22-footer at the par-four third and a 71-footer at the par-three fourth.

"I've holed three putts from the fringe, I've holed a bunker shot, I've holed a chip on 10 -- those kind of things you need to kind of go your way, especially around a course like this where putting and short game is tricky," he said.