On Thursday, it was Henrik Stenson who emerged as one of the forgotten stars in a field full of them, posting an eight-under 64. While he’s still tied for the lead at 11-under 133 after a second-round 69, Friday belonged to rising star Bryson DeChambeau, who matched the low round of the day with a six-under 66 to grab a share of the lead at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
DeChambeau, 24, sat at even par through six holes before holing three birdies in a row to turn in three-under 33 and make his move. The momentum carried over to the final nine, where he carded another three-under 33 that featured two birdies, a bogey and one eagle at the par-5 16th. The former SMU star has amassed a field-leading 14 birdies over the first two rounds.
“I’ve been playing well. I think that rest last week kind of helped. My body wasn’t doing great and I was able to come out here pretty fresh and get the ball in the hole,” said DeChambeau.
Prior to withdrawing last week at the Valspar with a sore back, DeChambeau had made seven of eight cuts, including a T-7 at the Shriners and a T-5 at the Waste Management where he contended for most of the week.
“I think every week I’m good enough to win or play my best. It’s just sometimes a kick here, a break here and that’s just what happens, you don’t always get a sky ship rocketed up to the top of the leaderboard like I have and unfortunately that’s the way it goes sometimes, but this week it’s going the right way.”
He heads to the weekend in search of his second US PGA Tour victory, the first coming at last season’s John Deere Classic, where he carded a final-round 65 that included a clutch putt at the 72nd hole that ended up being the difference.
Stenson’s 69 featured a lot fewer fireworks than his 64, but on Friday he was bogey-free and began his day with 13 straight pars before ripping off three consecutive birdies at the fifth, sixth and seventh holes, (his 14th, 15th and 16th). The Swede chalked up the boring but effective start to his early tee time.
“It was very cold this morning, even though I don’t think it was as cold as it was yesterday for the boys, so it took a little while to get going,” said Stenson. “I made a lot of solid pars in the beginning of the round, which was good. Then I had a stretch where I was struggling there on the end of my front nine, which was 16, 17, 18. I made some great par putts and a bunker up-and-down, so that was really key today to keep the round going. I didn’t drop a shot, where I could have easily dropped three shots on those holes and dropped down. So that was crucial.”
Stenson, who ranks third in the field in strokes gained/putting, also picked up a win late last season at the Wyndham Championship. A win this week would give him seven in his PGA Tour career, and his 21st as a professional worldwide.
Talor Gooch, a PGA Tour rookie, hung around on Friday, posting a two-under 70 to get to nine-under 135. He’s alone in third, two back. Byeong Hun An, who has shot a pair of 68s, is three off the lead at eight-under 136. Charley Hoffman matched DeChambeau’s 66, vaulting him to solo fifth at seven-under 137.
Five players are at six-under 138, including Rickie Fowler (71) and Patrick Reed (70). Rory McIlroy, Ernie Els and Australia’s Curtis Luck are at five under, while Tiger Woods and Marc Leishman sit seven back at four under. Adam Scott is at one under and Jason Day is even for the card.
Former US Amateur champion Luck leads the Australian contingent after shooting 68 in his second round. From the ninth hole, he peeled off six birdies in eight holes to charge up the leaderboard into T-11.