Daniel Berger is stuck on a pretty good number.
The 26-year-old Berger posted a second straight five-under-par 65 to take a three-stroke lead over Kris Kitayama of Chico and Chris Kirk to the weekend in the 50th Honda Classic on the Champion Course at PGA National Golf Club in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
“Just one of those days when I kept the momentum going,” said Berger, who has won four times on the PGA Tour. “I hit a lot of quality shots, even though they don’t look like they’re five feet from the hole, or 10 feet from the hole. I know that they’re so difficult, that to hit it to 20 feet is a good shot.
“And that’s the challenge for this golf course is the pins are tucked, the greens are firm, wind’s up, so you have to be really on point with where you’re going to miss. You look at hole No. 5 (measuring in the neighborhood of 200 yards), the pin is four (paces) from the left, and the wind is off the left. … I mean it’s almost impossible to hit it close.
“So sometimes a 30-footer right of the flag is a great shot. And so that’s what I’m looking forward to on the weekend, where that’s going to be a big part of the game plan. It’s a difficult course and there’s going to be some mayhem out there.”
Berger, who lost the 2015 Honda in a playoff to Padraig Harrington of Ireland, made three birdies on each nine and had his only bogey at No. 14 en route to a 36-hole score of 10-under 130.
Kirk, who also has won four times on the PGA Tour and three times on what is now the Korn Ferry Tour, birdied the first three holes on his way to a 68 that backed up his opening 65, while Kitayama who held the first-round lead at 64, sank a six-foot eagle putt on the last hole to cap a 69.
“It was some good steady golf and I felt like I hit the ball better as the day went on and putted great again,” said Kirk, whose last victory came in the 2015 Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial.
Mark Hubbard of San Jose State holed a 19-foot eagle putt at No. 3 and had three straight birdies on the back nine in a 64 and is four shots back in a tie for fourth with Adam Svensson of Canada, who collected three birdies on each said and made one bogey in a 65.
Sepp Straka of Austria made five birdies while finishing his 64 on the front nine and is another stroke back in a tie for sixth with Chase Seiffert, the last player to be added to the field this week, who had four birdies on the back nine in a 66.
John Huh of Los Angeles and Cal State Northridge started on the back nine and had five straight birdies through No. 4 in a 65 and is seven down in a tie for eighth with Lee Hodges, who made three birdies coming home in a 66, Shane Lowry of Ireland, who had two birdies on each nine in a 67, and Roger Sloan of Canada, who birdied the first and last holes in a 68.
Joaquin Niemann of Chile, who won the Genesis Invitational last week at Riviera, totaled 70-73—143 to miss the cut by one stroke, and defending champion Matt Jones of Australia finished at 73-74—177 and missed the weekend five strokes.
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