Steve Stricker scorched the Plantation Course today with a 10-under (-par) 63 round and holds a five-shot lead at the halfway point of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions at 15-under(-par).
Webb Simpson is solo in second place at 10-under (par), and Kevin Na is in third place at nine-under (par).
Defending champ and Round 1 leader Jonathan Byrd and Martin Laird are tied for fourth place at eight-under (par).
Only twice before has the 36-hole lead been five shots at this tournament. Jack Nicklaus (1966) and David Duval (1999) were the previous two players to achieve this, and both of them went on to win.
Stricker's chances are looking extremely good right now.
He played a bogey-free round and started his push from the par-four third hole. His approach-second shot was left just over five feet from the hole, and he made the birdie putt for a share of the lead.
Nothing was going to stop Stricker today. On the seventh hole, his approach shot hit the ball of his playing partner, Martin Laird, on the green. The shot could have been a few feet from the hole for an easy birdie, but ended up 14 feet away.
But, Stricker ended up making the birdie putt. He made it look easy today.
He made the turn on the lead at nine-under (par) and got even hotter on the back nine. He played it at six-under (par), highlighted by his eagle on the 15th hole and back-to-back birdies to finish the round.
Webb Simpson was the first to wrestle the lead away from Byrd today, as he got off to a great start after birdies on the second and third holes to get to seven-under (par).
He added another birdie on the par-three seventh hole, but his momentum was stopped with a bogey on the eighth hole after hitting his drive wide-left to the native area.
Simpson finished the round in style as he made birdie on three of the last four holes, and he could carry that momentum into Round 3. He will be playing in the top group with Stricker tomorrow.
Long before Stricker finished his round, Kevin Na was the story of the day. He started the day T14 at even-par, and made the turn at one-under.
But, Na mowed down the back nine on an incredible eight-under (-par) 29. From Holes 11 through 15, Na made four birdies and ended the round making back-to-back eagles.
On the par-four 17th hole, Na made the eagle after his second shot from 221 yards away found the cup. Later on the par-five 18th, with a three-wood on his second shot from 277 yards, his shot was left just 10 feet from the hole.
He made the eagle putt, and the big fist-pump from him let us know how energized he was, and probably will be for the start tomorrow.
Defending champ and opening-round leader Jonathan Byrd's streak of rounds in the 60s ended today as he shot a two-under (-par) 71. He did not play a bad round as he went bogey-free, but he just couldn't make the birdie chances he had.
Last year, Byrd made 12 birdie putts from beyond 25 feet. Yesterday, he made four, helping him to get the lead. Today, he could only see them pass by the hole.
Martin Laird, who played with Stricker today, had an up-and-down day. He just couldn't find a way to keep his momentum going.
After a 32-foot birdie putt on the par-four sixth hole for his second consecutive birdie, Laird hit a monster drive on the par-four seventh hole, but found the left rough. He was still able to get a birdie-putt try from four feet, but missed it.
He made two more birdies before reaching the par-four 17th hole. There, Laird again hit another big drive, but only to see it find the tree outline on the right. He had just missed a 65-yard-wide fairway. He had to take a penalty stroke and went back to the tee for his third shot.
Laird ended up with a birdie on the par-five 18th.
The biggest mover today was Chris Kirk, who played alone yesterday after Lucas Glover withdrew from the tournament. He played at seven-under (par) for a five-under (-par) total, moving up 16 spots into a tie for seventh-place.
Early on, Kirk almost had the highlight of the day on the par-five fifth when—from 222 yards away—he almost holed his approach shot. It could have been the first double eagle of the season, and he ended up making the eagle putt.
Kirk had the best front-nine score of the day with a five-under (-par) 31 and had the best round of the day going before Na and Stricker stormed past him.
PGA Championship winner Keegan Bradley and Bryce Molder are also tied with Kirk at five-under (par).
After this group, there is a pack of 10 players who are tied for 10th place at three-under. In that group are K.J. Choi, Bubba Watson, Aaron Baddeley and Rory Sabbatini.
Baddeley had the fourth-best round of the day—along with Simpson—at five-under (par). It was the second-biggest move of the day, as it helped him move up 13 spots on the leaderboard.
Sabbatini was assessed a two-stroke penalty on the par-four opening hole for arriving 20 seconds late for his tee time. He was scheduled to start his round at 11:35 a.m. It took him five strokes to play the hole, and he started the day with a triple bogey.
Nick Watney had the putt of the day with a 50-foot birdie putt on the par-four 17th hole. Watney is T21 at two-under (par).
FedEx Cup champion Bill Haas has not been able to get anything going. He is in 24th place at even-par.
The action continues tomorrow at 10:55 a.m. local time. The tee times for Round 3 as published on the PGA Tour webpage are as follows:
|Plantation Course at Kapalua Tee #1|
|10:55 am||Steele, Brendan|
|11:05 am||Vegas, Jhonattan||Toms, David|
|11:15 am||Wagner, Johnson||Haas, Bill|
|11:25 am||Woodland, Gary||Watney, Nick|
|11:35 am||Choi, K.J.||Bradley, Michael|
|11:45 am||Piercy, Scott||Crane, Ben|
|11:55 am||Sabbatini, Rory||Wilson, Mark|
|12:05 pm||Frazar, Harrison||O'Hair, Sean|
|12:15 pm||Stallings, Scott||Watson, Bubba|
|12:25 pm||Bradley, Keegan||Baddeley, Aaron|
|12:35 pm||Kirk, Chris||Molder, Bryce|
|12:45 pm||Byrd, Jonathan||Points, D.A.|
|12:55 pm||Na, Kevin||Laird, Martin|
|1:05 pm||Stricker, Steve||Simpson, Webb|
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