For Ryan Palmer, it was simply a breeze in the second round of the Valero Texas Open.
The 45-year-old Palmer carded a bogey-free 6-under-par 66 to take a two-stroke lead over Kevin Chappell, Dylan Frittelli of South Africa and Matt Kuchar in windy conditions on the Oaks Course at TPC San Antonio in San Antonio, Texas.
“It’s a golf course, if you get it offline, you’re going to struggle,” said Palmer, who has won four times on the PGA Tour and six times as a pro. “I was able to keep the ball in front of me. When I’ve missed fairways, I’ve gotten fortunate breaks, I think. So, the weekend, it’s a matter of just avoiding those big misses.
“It was awesome. Bogey-free on this golf course is good any day, but when you throw in the winds we had, it makes it that much more special. I’m excited with the way I’m driving the ball again. I spent the last month and a half really struggling and my results have kind of shown. I’m able to take the left side of the golf course out of play now and I brought it here this week and it’s showing.
“My driver’s back to where it was a year ago, my game’s where it was, I feel, like a year ago in my mind and it’s showing.”
With wind gusts exceeding 25 mph, Palmer took the lead with a five-foot birdie putt on the 14th hole, sank a 10-footer for birdie on the next hole and made several clutch par saves while recording a 36-hole total of 10-under 134.
Chappell, from Fresno and UCLA, eagled the second hole and added five birdies in a bogey-free 65, while Frittelli birdied three of the last four holes for a bogey-free 66, and Kuchar made four straight birdies through No. 17 in a 69.
“I just feel at ease around this place,” said Chappell, whose only PGA Tour victory came in the 2017 Valero Texas Open. “My soul and this golf course get along. I really enjoy being here. I’m excited about where my game is because I’ve don’t think I played great yet.
“It’s not like the ball is coming out of the middle of the clubface every time and flying where I’m looking, but I’ve been able to scramble and get the ball in the hole.”
Said Kooch, who must win this event to get into the Masters next week: “They fall where they fall and you never know. You try to stay as positive as you can, thinking they’ll fall at some point. You never know in a round of golf, and it’s nice that they fell at some point today.”
J.J. Spaun of Los Angeles and San Diego State birdied three of the last five holes for a 70 and is three shots behind in a tie for fifth with Lucas Glover, who had three bogeys on each nine in a bogey-free 66, Gary Woodland, who posted a bogey-free 67, Charles Howell III, who also had a 67, and Brendan Todd, who finished at 69.
Scott Gutschewski made three birdies down the stretch to shoot 68 and is four down in a tie for 10th with Robert MacIntyre of Scotland, who had a second straight 69, and David Skinns of England, who had three birdies in the back nine in a 70.
Defending champion Jordan Spieth birdied the 18th hole for a 70 and is tied for 47th, but ninth-ranked Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland, who can complete the Career Grand Slam by winning the Masters next week, made only one birdie in a 73 and missed the cut by one stroke.
Hideki Matsuyama of Japan, who hopefully will be able to defend his Masters title next week, was 1-under for the day after nine holes after opening with a 74 before he withdrew because of a neck injury.
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