Keith Mitchell fired an eagle and seven birdies on Friday in an eight-under-par 64 to take an early five-shot lead in the second round of the CJ Cup.
The American, searching for a second US PGA Tour title to go with the Honda Classic trophy he lifted in 2019, followed up a first-round 62 with another strong effort at the Summit Club in Las Vegas, Nevada, hosting the tournament moved from South Korea because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Mitchell hit 16 of 18 greens in regulation in a round featuring a 60-foot eagle putt at the par-five 3rd.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) October 15, 2021
His 18-under-par total of 126 gave him a five-shot lead over a quartet of players that featured three-time Major-winner Jordan Spieth, Australian Adam Scott, American Harry Higgs and South Korean Kim Seong-hyeon.
Spieth had an eagle and eight birdies along with three bogeys in his seven under 65. Higgs carded a 67 and Kim nabbed seven birdies and an eagle at the par-five 18th in a nine-under-par 63.
The South Korean, winner of the Japan PGA Championship in July, is in search of a first US PGA Tour title.
Scott grabbed his share of second with a 63 that included eagles at both par fives on the back nine. At the 18th, his shot out of a fairway bunker left him a five-foot eagle putt.
“You know, you can’t expect a finish like that, but I’m going to take it,” Scott said. “I hit a lot of shots close and that made light work with the putter.
“Kind of put myself in contention. I’m a long way back still, but 36 holes to go, I like where I’m at, moving in the right direction.”
It was a further stroke back to American Rickie Fowler and England’s Tyrrell Hatton on 132, Fowler posting a 66 and Hatton signing for a 65.
Mitchell said he’d felt the pressure of trying to add a second title to his resume – something he almost did at the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow in May.
He held a two-shot lead going into the final round but finished tied for third behind winner Rory McIlroy – who said his closeup view of Mitchell’s game convinced him the American was the real deal.
While Mitchell appreciated that view, he said he’d been working hard to gain the consistency that would make him a contender week in, week out.
Last season he made 16 cuts, with three top-five finishes, and missed 12.
“It’s like a rollercoaster, and my game is like that,” he said. “This year, I kind of took a hard look at my game. I felt like I’ve either had the game, the potential I should say, to play a lot better than I have on a consistent basis.
“I just wanted to take this year and just try to be as consistent as possible, because I felt like feast or famine was kind of my game the last four years and I wanted to be a little bit more consistent, a little bit more patient – play like a Tour pro and not just like a young kid out there firing at flags.”
© Agence France-Presse