Will Zalatoris shot a 5-under 65 on Friday at Southern Hills and will move into the weekend at the 2002 PGA Championship with a one-shot advantage.
The “other elite Texan” (not named Spieth or Scheffler) got off to a terrific start with something of a miracle birdie on his opening hole, after hitting a tree with his tee shot. After nine straight pars on holes 2-10, Zalatoris reeled off a hat trick of gains, starting on the par-3 11th and concluding at the par-5 13th, to secure the tournament lead outright. He added a final birdie on the par-4 17th to reach 9-under 131.
“Yeah, I got away with murder a few times today for sure, especially starting off the day hitting the left trees and hitting it to a kick-in,” said Zalatoris, who is searching for his first tour win.
“Same thing on 17, being able to get out of there with birdie where it was looking like I was going to be making 5.
“10 was really the big one, compounding two errors and hitting one really good golf shot and saving par, I just kept the round going today. Made a bunch of six-, eight-footers for par that kept the day going, and obviously being bogey free around this place is pretty nice.
“We lucked out with the draw for sure. I played the last eight holes with not much wind but take it when you can get it.”
In Saturday’s final grouping, the 24-year-old Texan will be paired with Mito Pereira (69), who posted 64 to reach 8 under, good for solo second.
“Yeah, I mean, well, the conditions are going to change a little bit,” said Pereira. “The wind is going to change. Going to be a little bit colder. I think I’ll just try to do the same I’ve been doing.
“Been hitting the ball really well, so I think that’s a really strength coming up to the weekend. Yeah, not to change anything.”
Two further back was Justin Thomas, who produced a second consecutive round of 67 to sit solo third.
The 28-year-old Kentucky native finished his second set with a single bogey against four birdies, including a final-hole gain to reach 6-under 134, three shots off the pace.
“Yeah, very pleased,” said Thomas, who won the 2017 PGA Championship. “I felt I played — although I played solid yesterday, I played really, really well today.
“The conditions were obviously very difficult. I stayed very patient, tried to get in my own little world and get in a zone and just tried to execute each shot the best I could.
“I felt we did a great job of that and am glad to have a good round to show for it.”
Thomas will be paired with Bubba Watson (-5), who shot a tournament-low 7-under 63 – which required nine birdies to offset two bogeys.
“Slower greens obviously helps,” said Watson, who owns two Masters wins. “It slows down the chips and everything, all the shots that you’re hitting in there. Makes the ball grab more because you have a little bit more grass on there to grab and spin shots.
“Without the heat, the cloud cover made it a little bit softer. But when that wind died down, you just felt like you had a chance to score.
“I’m not saying it was easy by any means. I just hit some putts, hit some shots that helped me — you know, my whole goal was to make the cut, so I was just trying to stay ahead of the cut line, and every time I made a birdie I just kept saying, that’s one more to the good.
“I think I laughed, I made fun of my caddie on No. 12 tee. I think I said I had to shoot 7-over the rest of the way to make the cut. I was always trying to figure out what that was because around here the golf course can get you real fast.”
Rory McIlroy struggled to a 71 but remained in the hunt at T5 on 4 under, alongside Abraham Ancer (69) and Davis Riley (68).
“I didn’t get off to the best of starts,” said McIlroy, who last won a major nearly eight years ago in 2014. “That bogey on 2, and then I guess from there, it was not really giving myself enough realistic chances for birdies.
“After that, I played solidly on the way in there, after the second bogey on 7 there; to play the last 11 holes in 1-under was respectable, you know, not to make another bogey.
“I gave myself a few more chances on the back nine and couldn’t quite capitalize on a couple of them. But those up-and-downs on 16, 17, and 18 I think were going to be really important.
“Just keeps me a little closer to the lead and doesn’t really feel like I’ve got such a mountain to climb if I had have maybe dropped one or two over those last three holes.
“There’s a long way to go, a lot of golf left. We’re going to see a completely different golf course the next two days because of the wind direction. It’s going to play completely differently.
“Probably none of the — maybe a couple of guys that came up earlier or Viktor that’s been here a while might have seen the golf course in a northerly wind, but for the most part everyone is going to have to adapt.
“It’s just going to play much differently tomorrow, and that makes it very interesting.”
McIlroy’s playing partners, Jordan Spieth (+1) and Tiger Woods (+3), both made the weekend but have a lot of work to do.
2022 PGA Championship Leaderboard
Top 10: Round 2
Pos-Player-To Par (Score)
1. Will Zalatoris -9 (-5)
2. Mito Pereira -8 (-6)
3. Justin Thomas -6 (-3)
4. Bubba Watson -5 (-7)
5. Rory McIlroy -4 (+1)
5. Abraham Ancer -4 (-1)
5. Davis Riley -4 (-2)
8. Matt Fitzpatrick -3 (-1)
8. Stewart Cink -3 (-2)
10. Chris Kirk -2 (E)
10. Tyrrell Hatton -2 (-2)
10. Matt Kuchar -2 (+1)
10. Cam Smith -2 (E)
10. Cam Young -2 (-3)
10. Sam Burns -2 (-3)
10. Gary Woodland -3 (-2)
Notables: Round 2
Pos-Player-To Par (Score)
17. Patrick Reed -1 (E)
17. Joaquin Niemann -1 (+1)
23. Viktor Hovland E (E)
30. Justin Rose +1 (E)
30. Jordan Spieth +1 (-1)
30. Tony Finau +1 (+2)
30. Xander Schauffele +1 (+3)
30. Tommy Fleetwood +1 (E)
41. Brooks Koepka +2 (-3)
41. Shane Lowry +2 (+2)
53. Tiger Woods +3 (-1)
64. Hideki Matsuyama +4 (+2)
64. Webb Simpson +4 (+5)
64. Collin Morikawa +4 (+2)
2022 PGA Championship Full Leaderboard