PITTSFORD, N.Y. — Scottie Scheffler, Corey Conners of Canada and Viktor Hovland of Norway endured unexpectedly wet weather Friday afternoon to get to 5-under-par 135 and share the 36-hole lead at the PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club.
Scheffler and Conners headed to the clubhouse around the same time following rounds of 2-under 68, and Hovland joined them at 5 under when he sank a 5-foot birdie at the 18th hole to shoot 67.
They led a select group of players who were under par through two days amid the most difficult scoring conditions of the season thus far. First-round leader Bryson DeChambeau had to rally for a 1-over 71 and sits two back at 3-under 137, tied with little-known Justin Suh (68).
The round of the day belonged to Brooks Koepka, who birdied four of his last seven holes to climb the leaderboard. His 66 got him to 2 under, tied for sixth with England’s Callum Tarren (67). Canadian Taylor Pendrith (69) and Englishman Justin Rose (70) were tied at 1 under.
A drizzle turned into a steady rain at 2:30 p.m. local time, when most of the early contenders were just beginning their second rounds. After an hour, the rain subsided, only to pick up again after 6.
Though players did not expect the rain, it served the afternoon wave well as a sign of things to come. Saturday is expected to be about 15 degrees cooler with a high likelihood of rain throughout the early afternoon hours.
“The weather was supposed to be really hot today, almost 80 degrees,” Hovland said. “With that rain, the ball went a little bit shorter, and if you are in the rough, it tends to make that rough a little bit juicier because it’s wet.”
Scheffler picked up where he left off after Thursday’s bogey-free 67. On the par-4 first, his wedge into the green sat down less than 2 feet from the cup. He needed just a 9-foot putt to add birdie at the par-4 second.
Conners began his round on the back nine and birdied Nos. 13 and 15 to join Scheffler at 5 under. The lead was all his once Scheffler made his first bogey of the tournament at the par-4 seventh.
Scheffler came back with consecutive birdies at the short par-4 14th and the par-3 15th. His tee shot at the latter spun softly toward the hole and stopped 15 inches away.
Conners cruised around the course before picking up his lone bogey — also at No. 7. That left Scheffler alone at 6 under, but the World No. 2 just missed a par save at the last hole.
“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,” Scheffler said. “I’ve done a good job the first two days of keeping the golf course in front of me and scrambling well. Tomorrow I’m hoping to hit a few more fairways than I did today, make it a little easier on myself, but ultimately, 2 under is a good round around this place.”
Scheffler is looking for his second career major title and his third win of the season. Conners, meanwhile, has yet to break through but is familiar with contending at majors: He has three top-10 finishes at the Masters and led after one round of the 2021 PGA.
Conners leads the field in putts per round (26.5). He made a 12-foot par save at No. 17 and a 10-foot save at No. 18 before rolling in a 21-foot birdie at the second.
“Those two saves were huge,” Conners said. “Really kept me settled down and kind of focused on what I wanted to focus on. It definitely felt good to see those putts go in, was kind of scrambling on 17 and 18.”
Hovland, the 25-year-old ranked 11th in the world, has been a fixture in recent majors, tying for fourth at the 2022 Open Championship at St Andrews and tying for seventh at last month’s Masters. He feels he has the tools to finish the job and win his first major.
“The ball-striking is definitely there. Putting, you know, anything can happen, and I feel like a lot of the short game work that I’ve been doing the last couple of months are starting to show a little bit.”
DeChambeau had a bogey, a double bogey and no birdies on his front nine before bouncing back with birdies at three gettable holes, Nos. 11, 13 and 14. But he failed to get up and down for par at the 18th.
Suh, 25, is the reigning Korn Ferry Tour Player of the Year. While he hasn’t won on the PGA Tour yet, he tied for fifth at the Honda Classic and tied for sixth at the Players Championship in February and March. He made the cut at a major for the first time.
“Pars are good out here,” said Suh, who had 14 of them, plus three birdies and a bogey. “I think that’s kind of what you are going for when you are playing this golf course.”
Michael Block, one of 20 PGA club professionals in the field, is in a large tie for 10th with the likes of Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry after turning in his second straight round of 70 to remain at even par. The head pro at Arroyo Trabuco Golf Club in Mission Viejo, Calif., Block made the cut at the PGA for the first time on his fifth attempt.
Block said he wanted golf fans at home to know he is “one of them.”
“I’m just your local club pro. That’s what I do,” Block said. “People think I’ve got the best job in the world. I do have a great job. I have a very supportive club that lets me go play, but the amount of times I hit a bucket of balls is not even once a week.”
McIlroy, the star from Northern Ireland looking to break a nine-year major drought, was unhappy with his swing but shot a 69.
One of his playing partners was defending champion Justin Thomas (73 Friday), who nearly had a disaster on his final hole but saved bogey to finish two rounds 5 over for the tournament, making the cut on the number.
The top 70 and ties will play the weekend, and Phil Mickelson (72), Jordan Spieth (72) and Tony Finau (73) also finished on the 5-over cut line. World No. 1 Jon Rahm of Spain recovered from an opening 76 by shooting 68 Friday to get to 4 over.
Notables to miss the cut include Rickie Fowler (6 over), Matt Fitzpatrick of England (6 over), Jason Day of Australia (8 over) and Sungjae Im of South Korea (13 over).
–By Adam Zielonka, Field Level Media