Second-ranked Scottie Scheffler has been on top often recently and he’s there again.
The 26-year-old Scheffler (pictured), who has claimed six PGA Tour victories in a little more than a year, shot two-under-par 68 and is tied for the lead with Corey Conners of Canada and Viktor Hovland of Norway midway through the 105th PGA Championship on the East Course at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, N.Y.
“I was just trying to grind today, because the course was playing tough,” said Scheffler, the 2022 Masters champion. “I’ve done a good job the first two days of keeping the golf course in front of me and scrambling well. The rough offers Oak Hill’s biggest challenge. A few feet can have an outsized impact on the next shot, meaning the difference between birdie and bogey. That is one reason for the wide variety of names on the leaderboard.
“Once you get impatient around this place, you’re going to try and birdie every hole, and that’s when you are going to start digging yourself a pretty deep hole. If you are barely off out here, you’re going to get punished pretty severely.
“So, to shoot two-under-par, especially on a day where the rough got really wet and it was really tough to play out of, to post a number today was good, solid golf. I’ve had two good days so far, and I’m just hoping to continue that as the week goes on.”
Scheffler, who also captured the Players Championship in March, birdied the first two holes and two more on the back nine while recording a 36-hole score of five-under-par 135 that was matched by Hovland and Conners.
Hovland also birdied the first two holes in addition to the last for a 67, while Conners had three birdies in his 68.
“I just tried to plod my way along, hit fairways and greens for some birdie chances and easy pars,” said Hovland, who has won three times on the PGA Tour and seven times as a pro. “When I didn’t hit a good tee shot, I just tried to get the ball back into play for an outside birdie chance and then just settled for par.
“Obviously (the majors) are what you dream about winning and you practice so hard to play in. It’s nice to be back to have a chance, but at the same time, we’ve got a lot of golf left. We’re only halfway, and a lot of things can happen.
“So I just have to keep being patient and hitting the fairways, the middle of the greens, make some putts and, yeah, just let the pieces fall wherever they fall.”
Said Conners, a two-time PGA Tour winner who birdied three of his first 11 holes and held the outright lead for a while: “I’m very pleased with the score. The conditions were tricky out there because we faced some wind and some rain. It ended up being reasonably nice the last few holes, but my game was solid. I felt like I made a bunch of key putts to keep momentum going, and that was really the key to the day.
“I think just getting experience in this type of situation is helpful. Yeah, I think winning (the Valero Texas Open) a little over a month ago, I take a lot from that. I have lots of confidence in my game, I feel good, and I’m having fun out there.”
First-round leader Bryson DeChambeau, the 2020 U.S. Open champion, rallied with three birdies on the back nine to salvage a 71 and is two strokes behind in a tie for fourth with Justin Suh of San Jose and USC, who had three birdies in a 68, while four-time major champion Brooks Koepka had five birdies on the back nine in a 66 and is three shots down in a tie for sixth with Callum Tarren of England, who had four birdies in a 67.
Justin Rose of England, the 2013 U.S. Open champion, birdied three of his first seven holes but also had three bogeys in a 70 and is four down in a tie for eighth with Taylor Pendrith of Canada, who birdied three holes on his back nine to a 69.
Third-ranked Rory McIlroy birdied two of his last five holes to cap a 69 and is five strokes back in a huge tie for 10th with Michael Block of Mission Viejo, who birdied three of his first five holes in a 70; Shane Lowry of Ireland, who made five birdies on the back nine in a 67; Min Woo Lee of Australia, who birdied four of the first five holes in another 67; Adam Svensson of Canada, who had two early birdies in a 70; Matthew NeSmith, who made two birdies coming home in another 70; Sepp Straka of Austria, who had one birdie and two bogies in a 71; Keith Mitchell, who made two birdies in his 71, and Keegan Bradley, who was near the lead before three late bogeys gave him a 72.
Block, a Southern California PGA member who is Head Golf Professional at Arroyo Trabuco Golf Club in Mission Viejo, is the only teaching pro who made the cut and will be honored alongside the PGA champion on Sunday.
“This is something I’ve always dreamed of,” said Block, the reigning 2022 National PGA Professional Player of the Year, who has claimed 43 SCPGA victories in his career.
Fourth-ranked Patrick Cantlay of Los Alamitos and UCLA is tied for 19th after a 67 and sixth-ranked Max Homa of Valencia and Cal had four early birdies in a 72 and tied for 35th.
Top-ranked Jon Rahm of Spain rallied with three late birdies for a 68 and is in a tie for 48th with fifth-ranked Xander Schauffele, who made a double-bogey 6 on the last hole for a 72, and eighth-ranked Cameron Smith of Australia, who had three birdies in a second straight 72.
Tenth-ranked Jordan Spieth had a late birdie to salvage a 72 and made cut on the number in a tie for 59th, as did defending champion Justin Thomas, who had three birdies coming home to shoot 73.
Seventh-ranked Matt Fitzpatrick of England made bogeys on the last two holes and missed the cut by one stroke at 76-70—146.
For complete results, visit https://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard