Scottie Scheffler, Viktor Hovland and Corey Conners delivered clutch birdies and grinded out par saves to share the lead after Friday’s second round of the PGA Championship as rivals stumbled at rainy Oak Hill.
Second-ranked American Scheffler, last year’s Masters champion, and Canada’s Conners, chasing his first Major title, each fired two-under-par 68 to finish 36 holes level at the top on five-under 135.
South Africans Dean Burmester and Thriston Lawrence both made the weekend cut on four-over 144, after rounds of 71 and 69 respectively, but Christiaan Bezuidenhout (six over) and Ockie Strydom (13 over) missed it.
“Felt like I grinded it out pretty well,” Scheffler said. “Didn’t hit as many fairways as I would hope to but to shoot two under was good, solid golf.”
Conners, who won his second PGA Tour title at last month’s Texas Open, worked magic with his putter when needed.
“Very pleased,” Conners said. “The conditions were tricky out there, faced some wind, some rain. I made a bunch of key putts to keep momentum going, and that was really the key to the day.”
Norway’s 11th-ranked Hovland, also seeking a first Major crown, sank a five-foot birdie putt at the 18th hole to shoot 67 and make it three at the top.
“The score has been great but the way I’ve plodded my way around here, very pleased with that,” he said. “I was trying to give myself the most stress-free pars and a couple birdie looks as well.”
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Bryson DeChambeau, the 2020 US Open champion, closed with a bogey to share fourth with fellow American Justin Suh on three-under 137.
“It has been a few years, but it doesn’t mean I don’t know how to do it,” DeChambeau said of winning. “I’m definitely trending in the right direction finally.”
Four-time Major winner Brooks Koepka and England’s Callum Tarren were on two-under 138 and England’s Justin Rose and Canadian Taylor Pendrith on one-under 139 as only nine players stood under par.
Scheffler, who would return to world No 1 with a victory, had two sets of back-to-back birdies but closed with a bogey.
“I was just trying to grind,” he said. “I’m in a good position going into the weekend.”
Conners consistently made putts from nine to 12 feet for pars and birdies.
“Definitely was a challenging day,” he said. “But I felt like I played really solid.”
Hovland adopted a patient and conservative philosophy and will stick with it.
“It’s nice to have a chance, but we’ve got a lot of golf left,” Hovland said. “I just have to keep being patient and hitting middle of the greens and let the pieces fall wherever they fall.”
Koepka birdied three of the last four holes to shoot 66.
“Knew I needed a good round,” said Koepka. “Happy to shoot under par and get back in the race.”
Rose, the 2013 US Open and 2016 Rio Olympic champion, won in February at Pebble Beach for his first triumph since 2019. He could be the first Englishman to win a PGA Championship since Jim Barnes in 1916 and 1919.
Four-time Major winner Rory McIlroy, chasing his first Major victory since 2014, fired a 69 to stand on level-par 140. He found water and made bogeys at 6 and 7 but birdied nine from 44 feet and 18 from 16 feet.
“It was a bit of a grind again,” McIlroy said. “I had to score as best as I could. Rode my luck a little bit. Pretty erratic off the tee, Need to tighten it up over the weekend.”
American Michael Block shared 10th on one-over 140, the best 36-hole spot for a club professional since 1988.
World No 1 Jon Rahm, the reigning Masters champion, made the cut by shooting 68 to stand on four-over 144.
After going over the cut line with a bogey at 12, Rahm made three consecutive birdies.
“Knowing those next three holes were doable, I tried to be a little bit more aggressive and go after it,” Rahm said. “Hit the shots I needed to and made the birdies I needed to.”
Reigning US Open champion Matthew Fitzpatrick of England closed with back-to-back bogeys to miss the cut at five-over 145 by one.
Jordan Spieth, a three-time Major winner trying to complete a career Grand Slam by winning this week, shot 72 to make the cut on the number despite a left wrist injury.
“Wrist is holding up nicely considering,” Spieth said.
Defending champion Justin Thomas also made the cut on the number.
© Agence France-Presse