Peter Malnati fired a second-day 68 and will head into the weekend in Charlotte with a one-shot lead at the Wells Fargo Championship.
Malnati, who started on the back nine at Quail Hollow, opened with a bogey on No. 11 but offset it with a pair of birdies on Nos. 15 and 18 to turn in 35. A back nine of one bogey against three birdies, including back-to-back gains on Nos. 8 and 9 allowed Malnati to reach 7-under par and the 36-hole lead.
“It will be a good test tomorrow to see how I feel walking to that first tee. I’m sure there will be some nerves,” said Malnati.
“But I’ll definitely be excited and I’ll be able to hang on to some of this calm that I felt these first two days.”
Former world No. 1 Jason Day posted a second-round 67, highlighted by a birdie-birdie-par-eagle stretch on hole Nos. 7-10, to sit T2 at 6-under par alongside Aaron Wise (68).
“I didn’t do anything too crazy at the start but just kind of kept myself in it if I missed a green. Missed it in some nice spots,” said Day.
“Bunker play’s been great this week, and birdieing 7 and 8 again was key to get things moving forward. And then obviously the eagle helped on 10 with that bunker shot.”
Starting on No. 10, Charl Schwartzel reeled off four birdies in six holes (Nos. 15, 16, 18, and 2) en route to a 68 and a two-day total of 5-under 137, good for a fourth-place tie with Paul Casey, who posted a 3-under 68.
“Started playing well last week and carried it over into this week,” said Schwartzel, who posted a top 5 at the Zurich Classic with teammate Louis Oosthuizen.
“This golf course is a lot tougher than what we had last week, but I’m just hitting really good quality golf shots.”
Alone in sixth was Johnson Wagner, who sandwiched 12 pars between a six-hole stretch (Nos. 9-14) of bogey-birdie-bogey-birdie-bogey-birdie to finish level-par 71 and 4-under par 138.
Sam Saunders birdied three of his final five holes to to move to 3-under par and join a group of six players tied at T7.
The day’s low round was posted by Bryson DeChambeau, who fired a 6-under 65 to offset a first-round 75 and settle in at 2-under par and T13.
Reigning PGA Champion Justin Thomas bounced back with a 69 on Friday to get back to even-par 142, alongside reigning Masters champ Patrick Reed (71), among others.
Thomas credited a borrowed putter from Rickie Fowler for his improved performance.
“I played pretty similarly, honestly. I played really well yesterday. Just, man, I putted so terribly yesterday, enough in fact that I changed putters,” said Thomas.
“I actually used one of Rickie’s putters today, so it was that desperate in terms of how I was feeling over the putter. But yeah, again, I played really well today. Hit a lot of good drives, a lot of good iron shots.”
Tiger Woods made his only birdie of the day on the final hole to card a 73 and make the weekend at 2-over par. Phil Mickelson (72), Rory McIlroy (76), and Brooks Koepka (72) were also at 2-over and T48.
“I’m not used to — my feels aren’t used to greens at this pace. I feel more comfortable on faster greens,” said Woods.
“I’ve had ample time to make the adjustment and I just haven’t. I haven’t felt comfortable hitting the putts as hard as we have to hit them this week.”
TOP 10 LEADERS
1. Peter Malnati -7
2. Aaron Wise -6
2. Jason Day -6
4. Paul Casey -5
4. Charl Schwartzel -5
6. Johnson Wagner -4
7. Sam Saunders -3
7. Kyle Stanley -3
7. Nick Watney -3
7. Charles Howell III -3
7. Emiliano Grillo -3
7. Sam Burns -3
13. Tyrrell Hatton -3
20. Rickie Fowler -1
28. Patrick Reed E
28. Justin Thomas E
48. Tiger Woods +2
48. Brooks Koepka +2
48. Rory McIlroy +2
48. Phil Mickelson +2
69. Adam Scott +3
69. Hideki Matsuyama +3
NOTABLES MISSING CUT
Kevin Kisner +5
Tommy Fleetwood +6
Alex Noren +7
“But having fun and being relaxed aren’t the same thing, and I definitely am pretty high strung. Having trouble now for a couple years, yeah, I’m out there and there’s a lot of — there’s a lot of anxiety, there’s a lot of really strong desire, there’s a lot of pressure that I put on myself. So yeah, I would say that I’m not always as calm as I would like to be even though I may look happy and smiley.”
– Peter Malnati