Through 36 holes at the Sony Open, Brandt Snedeker is the man to beat with an impressive 65 in the second round that lowered his overall score to 12 under par.
Snedeker should not get comfortable heading into Saturday, because Kevin Kisner is just one shot back, with Zach Johnson, Zac Blair, Chez Reavie and Luke Donald not far behind at 10 under par.
Hawaii has brought out the best in a lot of players so far, with 14 players within four shots of the lead:
Snedeker's calling card throughout his career has been the short game, ranking 16th in strokes gained with his putter and 17th in total putting this year, per PGATour.com. He's been on point this week, as these stats from the PGA Tour show:
PGA TOUR @PGATOUR
Brandt Snedeker has holed out from all over through 31 holes: • 45 yds • 35 ft • 20 ft • 14 ft • 14 ft (again) https://t.co/SPFXV14iaj2016-1-15 21:14:29
The 35-year-old does not have a powerful shot off the tee, so he has to be on point with his irons and putter to compete. He's been in a groove so far this season, finishing third last week at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions.
It's been nearly a full year since Snedeker has won a PGA Tour event—his last victory came at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am in February 2015—but he's already shown positive signs of breaking out of that slump this season.
In fact, per the PGA Tour, Snedeker has taken his game to a higher level over his last 70 holes with 25 birdies, one eagle and only two bogeys.
Kisner was nearly able to match Snedeker shot for shot through 36 holes but had to settle for a 66 on Friday to finish one shot off the lead.
Johnson, Blair, Reavie and Donald have been as consistent to start the tournament, carrying momentum into the third round in a tie for third place at 10 under.
Brian Wacker of PGATour.com highlighted the long, arduous journey Blair has taken to reach this moment:
Brian Wacker @brianwacker1
Zac Blair: Utah-->PGA TOUR Latino America-->PGA TOUR Canada-->https://t.co/AIz04OouGC Tour-->#PGATOUR & 2 off lead in Hawaii at the moment.2016-1-16 02:16:08
Donald went on a tear once he made the turn. The PGA Tour shared a replay of his short birdie on No. 13:
PGA TOUR @PGATOUR
Luke Donald cards back-to-back birdies to get to 3 under for the round, 8 under overall. #QuickHits https://t.co/copVLPDEcu2016-1-16 01:33:16
It's been three years since Donald has won a PGA Tour event. He did have two top-10 finishes in 2015, so this is a great way for him to start out of the gate in 2016.
Moving down the leaderboard, following a strong opening Thursday, Vijay Singh remained within shouting distance of Snedeker thanks to a 69 that moved his total score to eight under. It could have been better, but a bogey on No. 18 pushed him into a tie for 11th place.
Singh's day looked as though it was going to be a disaster early. He had three bogeys through the first six holes but found his groove with three birdies and an eagle on the next six holes. Here's what his eagle putt looked like, per the PGA Tour:
PGA TOUR @PGATOUR
Justtttt enough pace. Vijay Singh gets it back to even for the day. #QuickHits https://t.co/oTTtB0bZJ62016-1-16 00:23:15
Age has taken its toll on Singh's game, as the 52-year-old hasn't won a tournament since 2008, but he keeps battling and is showing no signs of slowing down. Keeping up this pace all weekend may not be in the cards, though his ability to battle back from adversity was on display Friday.
Graham DeLaet had the round of the tournament thus far, posting an eight-under 62 that helped him make the cut Friday. The Canadian star moved his total score to five under thanks to this short birdie putt on the final hole, per the PGA Tour:
PGA TOUR @PGATOUR
Round of the day goes to Graham DeLaet with his 8-under 62 — an 11-shot improvement on his opening round. #QuickHits https://t.co/lAIVJq1gjI2016-1-16 03:12:40
Scores have been consistently low through two rounds. DeLaet's performance was the tip of the iceberg, as 103 players finished the first two rounds under par. With many players finding the course to their liking, things are shaping up to be intense over the weekend.
Snedeker is avoiding mistakes, with just one bogey thus far, and his short game continues to help him out. Barring any big problems over the next two days, he has a great chance to raise the trophy Sunday.
However, the pressure is on Snedeker, because Reavie proved that even an off-the-radar player can put together a great round. Kisner continues to make shots when he needs to, opening things up for a fantastic two-round finish at this year's Sony Open.
Even though Snedeker has been playing well in his last two tournaments, he missed two PGA Tour cuts in October and November.
Following his performance Friday, he told Golf Channel, per Reuters (via Yahoo.com), about the process of turning things around in the last two months.
"This is why we spend so much time away from our families as well as so much time on the golf course, (working) to be in contention and have a chance to win at the weekend," Snedeker said. "Now I feel more comfortable with how I'm supposed to swing. Hopefully I can keep building on it."
Momentum is in Snedeker's favor, but his ability to carry it into Saturday's third round will determine how high he climbs in Hawaii.