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Martin continues to set pace with 67 at Zurich Classic

(Reuters) - Ben Martin showed that his sizzling start was no fluke as he continued to set the pace during the second round at the $6.8 million Zurich Classic of New Orleans on Friday.

Martin could not match his opening 62, but a five-under-par 67 was a most respectable encore in ideal morning conditions at TPC Louisiana.

He threatened to run away from the field when he started the second round by picking up four strokes in his first four holes, but it was not to be.

"I got off to a great start today, which I think is big," the South Carolina native told Golf Channel after posting a 15-under 129 halfway total, four strokes better than South Korean Noh Seung-yul with half the field back in the clubhouse.

"Sometimes there can be a bit of a letdown after a really good round but I hit it to about six inches on (my first hole) and chipped in for eagle (on the next)."

A double-bogey at his ninth hole, the par-five 18th, where he drove into a water hazard and also three-putted, halted his momentum but that was the last blemish on his card.

"That was a little bit of a wake-up call," he said. "I got a bit ahead of myself."

Martin, 26, is in his second season on the PGA Tour, after losing his card in his rookie campaign in 2012.

His form this week is no flash in the pan. He tied for third at the Heritage last week and also posted a third-placing at the Puerto Rico Open in March.

"I felt like I played well last weekend, got a bit of confidence from that and hopefully I keep it going," he said.

Noh stayed in touch with a bogey-free 68.

The 22-year-old from South Korea is enjoying a solid season, 71st in the points ranking after making 11 straight cuts before pulling out of the Houston Open with a wrist injury during the second round earlier this month.

James Driscoll, meanwhile, had a close encounter in a bunker at the 18th hole.

With an alligator lurking far too close for comfort, Driscoll decided it would be prudent to scare the reptile away before playing out of the sand.

Fellow competitor John Peterson came to the rescue, using a club to poke the alligator in the tail and coax it back into the adjacent pond.

Still Driscoll missed the cut.

(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina, Editing by Gene Cherry)

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