Ryan Palmer nabbed six birdies in a six-under-par 66 on Friday to take a two-shot second-round lead in the Texas Open in San Antonio.
The American built a 36-hole total of 134 in the final event before the Masters, where Rory McIlroy’s prep for Augusta National ended prematurely with a missed cut and reigning Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama withdrew with a neck injury.
“Awesome,” Palmer said. “Bogey free on this golf course is good any day, but when you throw in the winds we had, it makes it that much more special.”
Palmer, chasing a fifth PGA Tour title, got up and down from a greenside bunker for a birdie at the 2nd, then rolled in a 32-foot birdie at the 3rd.
He followed a birdie at the par-five 8th with a 16-foot birdie at the 9th, then bagged another brace of birdies at 14 and 15.
“I’m excited the way I’m driving the ball again,” Palmer said. “My driver’s back to where it was a year ago, my game’s where it was I feel like a year ago, my mind, and it’s showing.”
He was two strokes clear of Americans Kevin Chappell and Matt Kuchar and South African Dylan Frittelli.
Chappell highlighted his own bogey-free round with an eagle at the par-five 2nd, where his second shot from the right rough landed four feet from the pin.
After teeing off on 10 and picking up three birdies in his first nine holes, he added a 15-foot birdie at the 8th and a 17-footer at the 9th.
“I really am proud of the way I played,” Chappell said of his performance in sometimes difficult, windy conditions. “I hung in there. I’m excited about where my game is because I don’t think I played great yet.”
Kuchar was one over for the round through 10 holes, but seized his share of second with a storming finish that featured four birdies in a row from the 14th through the 17th on the way to a 69.
Frittelli, meanwhile, made all six of his birdies in his first 11 holes, then parred his way in for a 66.
But there was trouble for McIlroy, who will once again be seeking to complete a career Grand Slam when he tees it up at Augusta National next week.
Coming off an even-par first round, McIlroy bogeyed the 2nd and made the turn at one over.
Another bogey at the 12th, where he was in the trees off the tee, was followed by a birdie at 17, but he went left off the tee at 18 and had to scramble to save par for a one over 73 that left him two shots outside the cut line.
There was potentially even worse news for Japan’s Matsuyama, who pulled out after nine holes complaining of a sore neck less than a week before he was due to launch his defence of his historic 2021 Masters triumph.
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