Fifth-ranked Jon Rahm of Spain has picked up right where he left off on the DP World Tour.
Rahm, who won the Acciona Open de Espana in his last start two weeks ago, carded a 9-under-par 62 and is tied for the lead with Kurt Kitayama of Chico and UNLV midway through the CJ Cup in South Carolina at Congaree Golf Club in Ridgeland, S.C.
“It’s much different on the greens over here because they are much firmer and faster than those in Europe,” said Rahm, who also tied for second recently in the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth Golf Club outside London. “It took me a while to get used to them yesterday, but then I was able to finish strong and it carried over into today.
“My swing felt much better today, too, and my ball-striking was very good so I was able to be aggressive going for the greens, which gave me a lot of birdie chances. I made several of them, but missed a couple of short ones, too. But overall, it was a great day.
“I have a few things I have to tidy up heading to the weekend, but I hope to keep up this pace.”
Rahm, who claimed his seventh PGA Tour victory among his 15 as a pro last season in the Mexico Open at Vidanta, collected five birdies on each nine before making his lone bogey on the 18th hole to finish 36 holes at 11-under 131. He holed a 60-foot bunker shot for a birdie on the sixth hole and sank three birdie putts of 25 feet or more, including a 35-footer at No. 10.
Kitayama, who has won three times around the world while playing several seasons on the European and Asian Tours but is seeking his first PGA Tour victory, followed his opening 66 with a 65 that included a 49-foot bunker shot for an eagle on the 12th hole and three birdies on each nine to offset bogeys at Nos. 7 and 10.
“It was rolling pretty hot, hit the pin and went in dead center, so that was good,” Kitayama said of his eagle. “This week I’ve found something on the greens. You just get on the green where you can’t read them and start doubting how you putted. This week I feel like I see the line better and can hit a more confident stroke.
“I’m playing better than I have for a while and just want to keep it up the next couple days.”
Aaron Wise of Lake Elsinore made four birdies on the back nine in a second straight 66 that left him one stroke back in a tie for third with Cam Davis, who also had four birdies coming home as he also shot 66 for the second day in a row, while second-ranked Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland, the defending champion, reeled off five birdies on the back nine in a 67 and is two shots down in solo fifth.
“I made a couple bogeys on the front nine and was seven behind at the turn,” said McIlroy, the reigning FedEx Cup champion. “Then I made a nice (32-foot) putt at No. 10 that got me going and I was able to have a nice back nine.
“I was just trying to hang on to Rahm’s coattails.”
Billy Horschel birdied four of the last five holes for another 67 and is one more behind in a huge tie for sixth with Shane Lowry of Ireland, who also totaled 67 with four birdies on the front nine; Lee Hodges, who birdied four of the first six holes in his 67; K.H. Lee of South Korea, who made seven birdies in another 67; Tom Hoge, who birdied five of the last eight holes in one more 67; Brendon Todd, who had four late birdies is his 67; Tyrrell Hatton of England, who holed a 48-foot shot from the fairway at No. 12 in a 68, and 20-year-old rookie Tom Kim of South Korea, who made two birdies on each nine in a 69.
Top-ranked Scottie Scheffler birdied the first four holes en route to a 68 and is in a tie for 31st that includes ninth-ranked Collin Morikawa of La Canada Flintridge and Cal, who finished at 69, and 10th-ranked Matt Fitzpatrick of England, who also had a 69, while eighth-ranked Justin Thomas struggled to a 73 and is tied for 46th.
First-round co-leader Gary Woodland, the 2019 U.S. Open champion, also shot 73 and is tied for scould manage only a 73 and is tied for 23rd.
There was no cut in this limited-field event, which includes only 76 players.
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