Chris Kirk has four PGA Tour victories, the last in 2015, but has put him in position to win again.
The 37-year-old Kirk carded a five-under-par 65 in the second round to take a one-stroke lead over J.J. Spaun of Los Angeles and Taylor Montgomery midway through the 58th Sony Open in Hawaii at Waialae Country Cub in Honolulu.
“It was just the opposite of yesterday, when I was up-and-down, but still shot 64,” said Kirk, whose last victory came in the 2015 Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial. “I started out today with three straight birdies and just felt in control of my game. There was just no stress.
“I’ve been working hard on my game and made a lot of putts today. I’ve decided that it doesn’t matter if I shoot 65 or 75, I’m going to try to take it the same way, although obviously I’d rather shoot 65. That’s a lot more fun, I’m not going to lie.
“It’s so difficult to be great at this game professionally on the mental side. I don’t know if I did a good job today or not, but thankfully I did on the back nine. I always remind myself that pressure is a privilege, when you start feeling a little bit of nerves.”
Kirk, who finished second in the Sony Open in Hawaii in 2014 and 2021, followed those birdies on the first three holes by making his lone bogey at No. 6, but he added three more birdies on the back nine and recorded a 36-hole score of 11-under 129.
Spaun, who played at San Diego State, tied for fifth last week in the Sentry Tournament of Champions on the Plantation Course at Kapalua Resort on Maui and was tied for the lead this time before hitting his drive into the water on the last hole to make his only bogey in a 64, while Montgomery, who was tied for the first-round lead with Kirk and Jordan Spieth at 64, birdied his last two holes for a 66.
Hayden Buckley collected seven birdies in a 64 and is two shots back in a tie for fourth with David Lipsky of Los Angeles, who carded a bogey-free 66.
Ben Taylor of England made only one bogey in a 66 and is three down on a tie for sixth with Austin Eckroat, who birdied six of eight holes through No. 10 in another 66, and S.H. Kim of South Korea, who sank a nine-foot bridie putt on the last hole to cap 67.
Maverick McNealy of Portola Valley and Stanford birdied the last two holes to complete a 67 and is four strokes behind in a tie for ninth with Stephan Jaeger of Germany, who also birdied the last two holes for a 66; Denny McCarthy, who have five birdies in a 68; J.T. Poston, who sank a 21-foot eagle putt at No. 9 in a 66; Brendon Todd, who holed a five-foot birdie putt on the last hole for a 68, and Ben Griffin, who made four birdies on the front nine in another 68.
Defending champion Hideki Matsuyama of Japan is tied for 44th after a 69, while first-round co-leader Spieth struggled to a 75 with only one birdie and missed the cut by one stroke, and 20-year-old Tom Kim of South Korea, who the oddsmakers made the tournament favorite, shot 69 and missed the weekend by three shots.
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