Rookie Austin Cook sank a six-foot birdie putt on his final hole to shoot a bogey-free 8-under-par 62 on the Seaside Course and take a one-stroke lead over Brian Gay midway through the RSM Classic at Sea Island Resort in St. Simons Island, Ga.
The 25-year-old Cook, who has never won as a pro, started at No. 10 and made four straight birdies through the 16th hole and added four more birdies while finishing on the front nine.
“I’ve just been able to hit the ball really well,” said Cook, who earned his PGA Tour card by finishing 15th on the 2017 Web.com Tour money list. “I’ve hit the ball close to the hole and when I didn’t I made some nice up-and-downs. I’ve had mostly stress-free putts and when I’ve had longer ones for par was able to get them to go down.
“I’ve been able to play nine or 10 events out here (on the PGA Tour) the last few years, made some cuts and been in contention a few times to prepare me for this. I feel comfortable out here.”
Cook, whose best finish on the PGA Tour was a tie for sixth in the 2015 Barbasol Championship, posted a score of 14-under 128 and is bogey-free through 36 holes.
Gay, who has won four times on the PGA Tour but not since the 2013 Humana Classic, sank a 16-foot birdie putt on the eighth hole and five-footer for par on No. 9 while finishing at 64 on the Seaside Course.
Chris Kirk, the first-round leader at 63 who won the tournament in 2013, shot 70 on the Seaside Course and is five shots back in a tie for third with C.T. Pan of Taiwan, who had a 65 on the Plantation Course, and Vaughn Taylor, who carded a 66 on the Seaside Course.
Brandt Snedeker, playing for the first time since July because of a sternum injury, recorded his second 67 on the Plantation Course and is six behind in a tie for sixth with Andrew Landry (64), Brendon de Jonge (67) of Zimbabwe, Ben Silverman (67) of Canada and Blayne Barber (67), who all played the Seaside Course, and Brice Garnett, who had a 69 on the Plantation Course.
Bubba Watson totaled 64 on the Seaside Course and is one more down in a tie for 12th that includes 2012 U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson, who had a 68 on the Seaside Course, Kevin Kisner, the 2015 RSM winner who shot 68 on the Plantation Course, and Patton Kizzire, the winner last week in the OHL Classic at Mayakoba, who finished at 69 on the Plantation Course.
Defending champion Mac Hughes of Canada finished at 70-72 — 142 to miss the cut by three strokes.
The last two rounds will be played exclusively on the Seaside Course.
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