On breezy, sun-splashed Friday at famed PGA National, Aaron Wise’s game matched the weather: nearly perfect. The 24-year old posted his second consecutive round of 64 and will enter the weekend with a three-shot lead at The Honda Classic.
As he did in the opening round, Wise made his way around the tricky Champion course in 6-under par, while offsetting a pair of bogeys with five birdies, and two eagles, en route to a 12-under par total.
“It’s two great rounds of golf and I love that and I love that I’m playing good, but like you said, this place can get to you pretty quick and there’s a lot of golf left ahead and a lot of trouble out there,” said Wise, whose lone win on Tour came at the 2018 Byron Nelson. “So you’re just still going to have to play smart golf, and like I said, the weather, the wind completely switches, it gets a lot colder, so it’s going to play really different this weekend.”
It’s never easy to follow up a record-setting round on the PGA Tour, and that’s exactly what happened to overnight leader Matt Jones, who opened with a bogey-free 61 but produced a five-bogey even-par 70 for an encore.
“It’s always tough to follow up a really good round,” admitted Jones. “Just, I hit it well, warmed up well, and my goal was just to give myself as many chances at birdie as I could. I had plenty.
“I had a few out there today that I didn’t make, but I had a good day and I’m happy where I am.”
The 40-year old Aussie was T2 alongside Brandon Hagy, whose low-round 62 was one shot shy of Jones’ record-tying 61.
“It’s been kind of a funny week. I was in Scottsdale on Tuesday afternoon and get a flight last minute,” said Hagy , who was a late addition to the field, replacing Kramer Hickok on Wednesday morning.
“Fly out Tuesday, don’t play practice rounds, you know, maybe I’m feeling like I’m playing on a little bit of house money a little bit, so I kept it pretty loose out there.
“I just tried to have a good feeling for every shot and I am just kind of grateful for the opportunity.”
Alone in fourth-place was Sam Ryder, who carded a blemish-free round of 63 to reach 8-under par.
“I love this place. Last year was the first year I played, I missed it my first couple years on Tour,” said Ryder. “I think my last nine out here on Sunday I wasn’t in contention, but I shot 3-, 4-under or something on the back nine, which is one of the better nines we play on TOUR. So I like it.
“I think it rewards some good shots and it’s penal if you start hitting it off line and it’s really a good ball-striker’s course and you have to play smart.
“So I feel comfortable with my game plan out here, it changes based on the wind directions and stuff, so I can’t really try and overpower it too much, but you just take your opportunities when they come and make a lot of pars and like I had a couple really nice saves that kept the round going, so that’s huge out here.”
A four-player logjam was one further back at 7-under par, including reigning Open champion Shane Lowry, who posted 66, highlighted by an eagle on the 18th.
Scott Harrington (67), Denny McCarthy (65), and Russell Henley (69) rounded out the T5 group.
Defending champion Sungjae Im was 4 under after two opening rounds of 68.
Marquee names to make the weekend included Adam Scott (69-67, -4), Rickie Fowler (70-68, -2), and Phil Mickelson (71-68, -1).
The 2021 Honda Classic
Leaderboard: Top 10
Pos-Player-To Par (Rd 2)
1. Aaron Wise -12 (-6)
2. Brandon Hagy -9 (-8)
2. Matt Jones -9 (E)
4. Sam Ryder -8 (-7)
5. Denny McCarthy -7 (-5)
5. Shane Lowry -7 (-4)
5. Scott Harrington -7 (-3)
5. Russell Henley -7 (-1)
9. Camilo Villegas -6 (-5)
10. Six Players Tied -5
62 – Brandon Hagy
85 – Martin Trainer
7 – Sam Ryder
0 – CT Pan
6 – Joseph Bramlett
0 – Brandon Hagy, Sam Ryder
Stat Leaders -Thru 36 Holes
– Brandon Hagy (338.9 yards)
– Cameron Tringale (89.3%)
– Phil Mickelson (80.6%)
– Russell Henley (1.445)
Q: “I know you’re having fun with the whole, how you found out, how soon. It’s an unusual story, obviously. I know you’re saying your playing with house money, but are you really thinking about, I mean, does it really feel different in any way to you this week?”
BRANDON HAGY: “I mean, you know, it felt good that I had an opportunity to play, I think that’s the best way to say it.
“Practicing is great back home and stuff, but this is why we practice, to be in these type of positions. And to have the opportunity on a tough golf course like this to hit the shots that I’m hitting, it feels good.
“So that’s, like I said, that’s why we practice.”
Credits: PGA Tour Media, Getty Images, Fastscripts, SportsData