World number two Scottie Scheffler, Norwegian Viktor Hovland and Canada’s Corey Conners grabbed a share of the PGA Championship second round lead on Friday, while an unforgiving Oak Hill left some of golf’s biggest names fighting to make the cut.
Scheffler, who posted his first ever bogey-free round at a major with a tidy 67 on Thursday, could not match that brilliance in round two but as always delivered a clinical performance carding a two-under 68 to return to the top.
Conners had started the day level with Scheffler one back of pacesetting Bryson DeChambeau and finished it in the same position also signing for a 68.
World number 11 Hovland began his round with back-to-back birdies and then drained a five-foot birdie putt at the 18th to join Conners and Scheffler on five-under 135.
“The tournament is halfway done,” said Scheffler, who can reclaim the number ranking with a win on Sunday. “I had two good days so far, and I’m just hoping to continue that as the week goes on.
“You get rewarded for good shots out here, and if you execute, you can birdie pretty much any hole.
“So when you can kind of hang around the lead and stay in position and hopefully wait to get hot, it’s a good position to be in.”
The three men opened up a two shot lead going into the weekend on Justin Suh (68) and LIV Golf standard bearer DeChambeau, who bogey the 18th for a one-over 71.
Brooks Koepka (66), another member of the LIV Golf contingent, and Callum Tarren (67) are another shot adrift at two-under.
Through the first two rounds golfers have already faced about everything Mother Nature could throw at them with gusting winds, frost and rain adding to Oak Hill’s already sturdy defences.
After freezing temperatures and frost delayed the start of Thursday play, wind and rain were the issue on Friday as only nine of 156 players reached the midway point of the year’s second major under par.
Defending champion Justin Thomas, six-time major winner Phil Mickelson and Jordan Spieth, who needs only a PGA Championship to complete the career grand slam, all made it through to the weekend by the skin of their teeth right on the five-over cut line.
Spieth, who is making his seventh attempt the career slam, rolled in a must make eight-footer for par at the 18th to secure his spot.
The day began with 30 golfers back early to complete their first rounds after darkness halted play on Thursday, and the action continued non-stop with players rushed right back out onto East Course with officials determined to get back on schedule.
Ireland’s Shane Lowry started the day at three-over closer to the cut line then in contention, but the 2019 British Open champion found a bit of magic on the back nine with five birdies over six holes between the 10th and 15th.
Lowry would bogey his final two holes coming home but his 67 would leave him at even par through two rounds in pack that includes good friend Rory McIlroy.
Four-time major winner McIlroy has not yet found any form at Oak Hill but the Northern Irishman’s grit has kept him in the hunt grinding out a one-under 69, signing off with a clutch 17-foot birdie putt at the 18th.
“I holed that putt at the last, I looked at the board, and I thought, I can’t believe I’m five back,” said McIlroy. “I guess that’s a good thing because I know if I can get it in play off the tee, that’s the key to my success over the weekend.
“If I can get the ball in play off the tee, I’ll have a shot.”
World number one Jon Rahm bounced back from an opening round 76 with a two-under 68 which was enough to see the Spaniard through to weekend on a four-over total.
The Cinderella story at this PGA Championship has been 46-year-old Michael Block, one of 20 teaching club professionals in the field, who has out played some of golf’s biggest names carding two rounds of level par 70 to make the cut.