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The fierce Oklahoma winds subsided Friday afternoon giving players an opportunity to put their stamp on the 104th PGA Championship. Will Zalatoris was the man up to the challenge as the reigning PGA Tour Rookie of the Year threw dart after dart at Southern Hills and propelled his name to the top of the leaderboard in the year’s second major.
Carding rounds of 66-65, Zalatoris finds himself at 9 under and has yet again played himself into contention in a major. Still searching for his first career victory, the 25-year-old will have his work cut out for him as numerous big names, major champions and wily veterans are waiting in the shallows for the moment he slips up. The good news? All seven major winners at Southern Hills have held the lead or co-lead after 36 holes, just like Zalatoris this year.
Among those looking to run him down is Justin Thomas, who put together the performance of the morning in the second round . One of two names inside the top 10 to have played out of the more difficult tee time split, the 2017 PGA Championship winner looks to raise a trophy for the first time in over a year. Thomas’s game has been trending for the better part of three months, and the same can be said for first-round leader Rory McIlroy. Unable to follow up his opening 5-under 65, the 33-year-old now finds himself five strokes off Zalatoris’ lead but not without a chance to capture his fifth career major title.
There is still plenty of action to touch on and that is exactly what we plan to do. Below is a rundown of the leaderboard as it stands after Round 2.
1. Will Zalatoris (-9): Peas and carrots. Peanut butter and jelly. Will Zalatoris and major championship conditions. The Wake Forest product has been terrific on golf’s biggest stage in his young career, boasting four top-10 finishes in only seven starts. He appears well on his way to adding to this total and doing so in a serious manner. Zalatoris always strikes the ball, well and this week, the putter has decided to cooperate as well as he leads the field in strokes gained putting. He is 18 for 18 on putts inside 10 feet so far in this tournament. Weekends at majors are entirely different animals, so if nerves creep in, it will likely show up on the greens.
2. Mito Pereira (-8): There are a number of parallels between Zalatoris and Pereira. Their statistical profiles are eerily similar, and neither have won on the PGA Tour despite a number of close calls to name a couple. The Chilean was a Battlefield Promotion from the Korn Ferry Tour last summer and looks at ease in his PGA Championship debut. In his second major championship start, Pereira fired a 6-under 64 and will have the last tee time on Saturday alongside Zalatoris.
3. Justin Thomas (-6): It has been an impressive first two days for Thomas, who has carded nine birdies against just three bogeys. His second-round 67 will get all the hype, and rightfully so, but I can’t help but go back to his 18th hole on Thursday. Stealing a stroke on the field with a birdie on the difficult par 4, Thomas rode this late momentum into one of the rounds of the morning on Friday. He has been outspoken the last half decade about wanting to add another major championship to his resume, and now he worked himself within reach of his second Wanamaker Trophy.
4. Bubba Watson (-5): The round of the championship belongs to the two-time Masters champion as Watson came out firing Friday afternoon with a career-best nine birdies in a major round. Signing for a 7-under 63, Watson not only tied the course record held by Tiger Woods and Raymond Floyd but more importantly played himself back into contention after a disappointing first round of 2 over. On a course where creativity and shot making are required, should we really be surprised Watson finds his name on the first page of the leaderboard?
T5. Rory McIlroy, Abraham Ancer and Davis Riley (-4): McIlroy was in the better end of the weather draw, so his second round of 1 over is that much more disappointing. Still, the four-time major champion is right in the thick of it despite his troubles on Friday. He continued to drive the ball like a stallion, but the iron play and putter abandoned him as he was unable to garner any momentum.
T8. Matt Fitzpatrick and Stewart Cink (-3): Cink infamously missed a short bogey putt on the 72nd hole of the 2001 U.S. Open to fall out of a playoff with Retief Goosen and Mark Brooks. Now, 21 years later, the 49-year-old is back in the hunt at Southern Hills and is the likeliest candidate to follow in Phil Mickelson’s unlikely footsteps from a year ago.
T10. Cameron Smith, Sam Burns and five others (-2): This is probably the farthest back I would go to find a potential winner as this is a group which possesses plenty of firepower. Burns made a strong push up the leaderboard on Friday with a round of 3 under alongside Cameron Young, who has turned in identical rounds of 71-67.
T30. Jordan Spieth and 10 others (+1): The grand slam dream is technically still alive no matter how faint the heartbeat may be. Spieth will look back to his opening round with disdain as he simply could not make anything on the greens. He fought back valiantly on Friday, but unless something cataclysmic happens to the leaders, he will have to wait until next year’s PGA Championship for another chance to join golf’s elites.
T53. Tiger Woods and 10 others (+3): There something about a 46-year-old 15-time major champion grinding to make the cut late on a Friday that is satisfying to watch. Outside of the par-3 11th, Woods looked strong en route to his 1-under 69 and even got the better of his playing competitor McIlroy. His body has to be hurting, but I like to think he will put together a better weekend effort compared to that at the 2022 Masters.
Rick Gehman, Jonathan Coachman and Greg DuCharme recap Friday’s action at the PGA Championship. Follow & listen to The First Cut on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.
25-year-old Will Zalatoris is the leader in the clubhouse at the 2022 PGA Championship after a 4-under 66 in Round 2. Zalatoris didn’t make a bogey and played his back nine at 31 (!), best in the field today, with birdies at 11, 12, 13 and 17.
Zalatoris has always been incredible with his distance and his irons but it is his putter this week that has been his saving grace. Today he again gained strokes on the field around the greens, as he continues to find ways to put himself in position to score.
We’re not quite finished with Round 2 yet, but barring some major surprise, Zalatoris (-9) will hold a one-stroke lead entering Moving Day over Mito Pereira (-8) and a three-stroke lead on Justin Thomas.
34 feet! pic.twitter.com/gmJ2xi4eV0
Another great Rory quote on Tiger that kind of sums the whole thing up: “He’s the ultimate pro.”
Rory said, if he were Tiger, he would have thought about WD’ing after the agonizing 74. But Tiger didn’t. “He’s proven he’s different,” Rory said. Called another made cut in a major “unbelievable” and a “monumental effort.”
Putting inside 10 feet.
This week: 1st pic.twitter.com/wGfKcVV5zM
I’ll have to confirm this but I believe Tiger is the first player to make the first 2 cuts of the major championship season with RoboCop’s skeleton
Bubba Watson shoots the 18th round of 63 in PGA Championship history.
He’s the first player to shoot 63 or lower in a major with multiple bogeys since Justin Thomas at Erin Hills in 2017.
Tiger, who was in a wheelchair this time last year, made the cut at the first two majors of the year. Here’s a list of golfers who did not (including 8 of the current top 18 in the world).
Watch Out, Will Zalatoris Can Putt! PGA Championship Round 2 Recap, Reaction & Analysis https://t.co/MychdOJejP
@notthefakeSVP My man. Appreciate it.
Most rounds in the 60s in majors since 1997
Phil Mickelson 102
Tiger Woods 101 (including today)
Tiger Woods makes the cut and will play the weekend at Southern Hills 👏 pic.twitter.com/nANYaBjCl4
Still one of the craziest stats in sports
Tiger Woods in majors as a pro
More wins (15) than missed cuts (11)
He’ll play the weekend at Southern Hills
What a day for Will Zalatoris pic.twitter.com/7njxGa6L2I
When you find an absolute monster of a note and someone makes birdie to render it totally useless pic.twitter.com/qli2QdwuG3
Watching Tiger absolutely rip people apart in his prime was great fun and terrific entertainment. Watching him proudly grind his way to a made cut at a major he has no chance of winning on nothing but stingers and resolve is a far more emotionally inspiring performance.
A simply SENSATIONAL round for Mito Pereira. pic.twitter.com/WPxDWdfQO7
Mito RN pic.twitter.com/mnLexpawC2
8 birdies now – career-high in 182 major championship rounds https://t.co/rSqspjf2yN
31 of the last 33 major winners were inside the top-10 through 36 holes.
Morikawa and Harding Park and Molinari at Carnoustie the two exceptions in that span.
Last time on a Saturday was 2020 PGA at Harding Park. Fleetwood and Haotong Li. https://t.co/z8bBaJZ2nS
This is the 182nd major championship round of Bubba Watson’s career. His 7 birdies today are tied for a career-high in any of them.
Bubba Watson has the round of the day (and maybe the week) cooking right now. He’s 6 under through 13 holes and now 4 under for the week. My, my, my. Logjam of stars rising to the top.
Just check out this round from Mito Pereira, the co-leader. pic.twitter.com/InmUuAyetP
27-year-old Mito Pereira is now tied for the lead at 8 under after pouring in a birdie at the seventh.
That’s his seventh (!!) birdie of the round.
There might be a few videos of Tiger making this birdie.
Walked with Tiger, Rory and Spieth for a long time today. It’s so, so hot out there, but the benefit of playing in the afternoon is that the wind has completely and totally laid down. The early late wave is going to get a course that’s playing a stroke and a half easier than the late-early group. It makes JT’s 67-67 look like the start of the week, and it also makes Rory’s +1 round so far feel a little worse than it looks.
Inception II pic.twitter.com/hawja0zMMj
25-year-old Will Zalatoris is torching the course right now at Southern Hills. He’s bogey-free through 12 with back-to-back bogeys to move to 3 under on the round and 7 under on the week. That’s the first time J.T., who took the lead earlier today with a 3-under 67, has lost the lead (for now). 18-hole leader Rory McIlroy, meanwhile, is three off Zalatoris at 4 under.
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