Justin Thomas posted his second straight round of 67 to move to 6 under par and grab the midday lead Friday during the second round of the PGA Championship at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Okla.
Thomas started on the back nine and recorded four birdies, the last coming at his final hole. He walked in a 9-foot birdie with a celebratory sidestep at the par-4 ninth. The putt pushed him into sole possession of the lead for the first time.
First-round leader Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland, who shot a 5-under 65 Thursday, teed off in the afternoon wave after Thomas was in the clubhouse with the lead. Will Zalatoris, who was tied for second after one round at 4 under, also played in the afternoon and birdied his first hole to join McIlroy.
Thomas hit 16 of 18 greens in regulation. He opened with birdies at the par-4 10th and par-5 13th holes before his lone bogey at the par-4 14th. After a string of pars, Thomas got a 23 1/2-foot birdie putt to fall at No. 5.
“I played better today than I did yesterday. It was a lot more difficult due to the winds,” Thomas said on the ESPN broadcast. “They weren’t able to cut the greens, so those fresh greens I was excited for, I didn’t quite get. I told (caddie Bones Mackay) beginning of the day, âLet’s just hit as many fairways, as many greens as possible,’ because it’s going to be very difficult to try to salvage pars all day, and I made it very easy on myself.”
Thomas’ only major title came at the 2017 PGA Championship.
Brooks Koepka was the only player in the morning wave to match Thomas’ round of 67. After a first-round 75, Koepka carded five birdies and two bogeys Friday to reach 2 over and move to the right side of the cut line, projected at 3 over as of 2:45 p.m. Eastern.
Players with the top 70 scores, including ties, will make the 36-hole cut. Notable players on track to miss the cut included Collin Morikawa (4 over), world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler (6 over), Dustin Johnson (6 over), Patrick Cantlay (11 over) and Daniel Berger (13 over).
Scheffler’s 5-over 75 on Friday came as a bit of a shock after he won four tournaments, including the Masters, to start his season. Scheffler opened with nine straight pars before piling up four bogeys and a birdie across his next seven holes.
At the ninth, a poor chip on his third shot led to a three-putt for a double bogey 6, dooming him to miss his first cut since October.
Other golfers to tee off in the afternoon wave included Matt Kuchar, Mexico’s Abraham Ancer, Xander Schauffele, Australia’s Cameron Smith, Jordan Spieth and Tiger Woods.