Kelly Kraft is about to find out whether he’s ready to handle the lead entering the weekend for the first time on the PGA Tour.
Kraft shot a seven-under 63 in the second round of A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier on Friday to take a one-stroke edge over first-round leader Webb Simpson and Anirban Lahiri of India.
Kraft posted his career-best round at the Old White TPC. He was at 13-under 127.
Kraft is looking to turn around a season that has included missed cuts in seven of his 10 previous tournaments, including last week at the Quicken Loans National. But he has had some success in West Virginia, where he tied for fifth last year.
“I’ve kind of changed my attitude a little bit starting with last week,” Kraft said. “I just feel like I’m ready to keep playing good.”
Kraft made four birdies on the front nine and didn’t let a bogey on the par-five 12th hole derail him. He added birdies on the next two holes and took the lead with a six-foot birdie putt on the par-four 16th.
Reminded that it’s his first time leading a PGA Tour event after 36 holes, Kraft said he was confident.
“I’ve been up there before and I know I can play out here,” he said. “I’m just looking for two more low ones and a bunch of scoring opportunities.”
Lahiri shot a career-low 61 and Simpson had a 67. Both were at 12 under.
Lahiri has yet to make a bogey in his first trip to The Greenbrier resort. He found just eight of 14 fairways but reached all 18 greens in regulation Friday. Four of his nine birdies were putts of 18 feet or longer.
“I’ve been feeling good over the last two weeks,” Lahiri said. “I’ve seen the improvement on the golf course and I’ve tried to plug the gaps that I’ve found over the last two weeks. And I’m happy that more than anything else I haven’t dropped a shot. But I’m not thinking about that. The focus is just to put myself in the best position that I can, and that’s a big positive for me.”
After shooting 61 on Thursday, Simpson saw his chance for a very low score end quickly on Friday.
Starting on the back nine, Simpson hit a tee shot that went out of bounds and made double-bogey on the par-five 12th, a hole he had eagled the day before. He then bogeyed the par-four 13th after his tee shot found the rough. He made five birdies the rest of his round.
“It was not the start I was looking for,” Simpson said. “I hung in there. I weathered that storm and made some birdies there on the front nine to keep it under par and give myself a chance for the weekend.”
Jason Kokrak shot 64 and was in fourth place at 11 under. Whee Kim of South Korea and Harold Varner III were at 10 under. Kim shot 68 and Varner shot 64.
Simpson is the only one among the top six players on the leaderboard with a PGA Tour win. Since its 2010 debut, the tournament has produced four first-time winners, including three rookies.
Sei Young Kim takes four-shot lead at LPGA Classic
Sei Young Kim birdied her first four holes Friday to shoot a seven-under 65 and surge to the lead after the second round of the Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic.
Kim was at 16-under 128 — tied for the tour’s lowest of the season — and four shots ahead of Yu Liu.
Jump-started by an eagle on the par-five third, Liu made a big move with the day’s best round with a 63 to get to 12 under and grab sole possession of second place.
Defending champion Katherine Kirk, who led after shooting 10-under 62 in the first round, couldn’t get her putting going, though, and settled for 71. She is one of five players who are five shots off the pace at 133.
Sung Hyun Park, who won her second career major at last week’s KPMG Women’s PGA Championship and could have moved to No. 1 in the world rankings with a win, missed the cut by five shots at one-over 145.
Revitalized Willett in contention at Irish Open
Ryan Fox of New Zealand, Matthieu Pavon of France and Dutch golfer Erik van Rooyen shared the lead after the second round of the Irish Open on Friday, while Danny Willett’s return to form catapulted him into contention at Ballyliffin Golf and Country Club.
Willett reached a career-high ranking of ninth after claiming his first major title at the 2016 U.S. Masters, but slumped to 442nd after missing his ninth cut in 12 events at last week’s French Open.
The 30-year-old Englishman added a two-under 70 to his opening 68 to lie two shots behind Fox (69), Pavon (68) and Van Rooyen (65).
Joakim Lagergren is one off the lead on seven-under, with Willett joined on six-under by Sam Horsfield and Zander Lombard. Lee Westwood is on five-under, while tournament host Rory McIlroy is seven off the pace after a disappointing 73.
“It’s been tough to see somebody that good struggle for that amount of time but today was the Danny Willett of old and it’s nice to see,” European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn said.
“Having two days like this is important, now comes the hard part of going the next two and enjoying it because you’ve done all the hard work to get back to here.”
Willett is relieved to finally be injury free after knee, back and shoulder problems. “It’s nice to come out and hit the shots that you can see in practice and actually perform still under pressure when the clubs are in your hand and you’re trying to obviously improve what you’re doing. It’s been a tough 18 months but I’m very happy to be playing nicely.”