|-8 Li Haotong (Chn); -6 T Fleetwood (Eng) J Rose (Eng), J Day (Aus), B Koepka, D Berger (all US), M Lorenzo-Vera (Fra); -5 P Casey (Eng), C Champ (US), B Todd (US)|
|Selected others: -4 D Johnson (US); -2 B DeChambeau, P Reed, C Morikawa (all US), A Scott (Aus); -1 R McIlroy (NI), J Rahm (Spa) Level T Woods (US)|
Tommy Fleetwood carded the joint-lowest round of the 2020 US PGA Championship to move into contention going into the final two rounds in San Francisco.
The Englishman, 29, shot a six-under 64 to sit two shots behind China’s Li Haotong, who took the lead with a five-under 63 at TPC Harding Park.
England’s Justin Rose is second with Fleetwood, Jason Day, Brooks Koepka and Daniel Berger after a 68.
France’s Michael Lorenzo-Vera bogeyed the last to also sit tied for second.
After carding a 67, England’s Paul Casey is a shot further back with Brendon Todd, the joint overnight leader with Day, and Cameron Champ, who matched Fleetwood’s low mark of 64.
Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods both had mixed rounds but will make the cut, with McIlroy one-under after a 69 while Woods is level par after a 72.
The 102nd US PGA was put back from May because of the coronavirus pandemic and is being played with no spectators.
Early starters shake it up
Li said he went into the year’s first major with “no expectations”. Given his record in 2020, no wonder.
The 25-year-old has missed the cut at four of the eight events he’s played this year. His best finish has been a tie for 18th at the Oman Open and he was tied for 75th at last week’s WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational, which saw him drop to 114 in the world.
But opening with a three-under 67, he raced out of the blocks on day two. Li claimed five birdies from his first 10 holes to charge into the lead, before seeing out a bogey-free round.
And that was despite hitting just four fairways. Perhaps that’s why he was back on the practice range hours after his round.
Tommy Fleetwood was another early starter who made a statement of intent. After having to settle for level par on day one, the world number 13 made virtually every opportunity count.
The 29-year-old, who is yet to win a major, claimed seven birdies to thrust himself firmly into contention heading into the weekend as he aims to become just the second Englishman to win the US PGA.
A stunning final round of 63 by Fleetwood had Koepka looking over his shoulder as he finished second to the American at the 2018 US Open and he was runner-up to Ireland’s Shane Lowry at the last major 13 months ago, the Open. Could this be Fleetwood’s time?
“I’m not going to say I’m playing the best I’ve ever played, or I feel the sharpest I’ve ever felt,” he said. “But it’s a major championship and I’ve just shot a good score, so I can’t be far off.”
Mixed day for McIlroy and Woods
Tiger Woods started out in San Francisco with his lowest opening round in a major since 2012 – a two-under-par 68.
He put some of that down to changing to a longer putter during the lockdown, but it just wasn’t clicking for the 15-time major winner on Friday.
Woods missed at least four putts he would have expected to make as he failed to claim a birdie on the front nine and dropped two shots.
Playing in the same group, McIlroy’s body language spoke volumes as the Northern Irishman followed up a birdie on the first with two bogeys.
And despite producing a run of four birdies over the turn, his hopes of getting onto the leaderboard heading into the weekend were dashed by a triple-bogey seven on the par-four 12th after finding the rough twice and three-putting.
Woods improved on the way back in, claiming two birdies to ensure he will make the cut, along with the likes of world number one Justin Thomas, Phil Mickelson and English pair Ian Poulter and Matt Wallace, who are all on one over.
The hours Jordan Spieth put in on the range after opening with a 73 paid off as he recovered with a 69 but fellow American Rickie Fowler will be kicking himself.
After attempting a one-handed tap-in on the sixth, he nudged it barely an inch and had to take a double bogey. The error cost Fowler as he missed his first cut in 14 majors by one shot.
Martin Kaymer had an even worse day, however.
After being one off the lead overnight, the German is now packing his bags after slumping to a 12-over 82.
I told my caddie ‘no expectations’ – what they said
Li Haotong: “I didn’t even think I could play like this this week, I’d got no confidence. I said to my caddie ‘no expectations’. I wanted to play without stress.
“That’s the key – just to play golf and try to get the win. We’ve still got two rounds left – long way to go. I just want to play my best. If it happens, it happens.”
Tommy Fleetwood: “Yesterday I had a decent score going then had a bad couple of holes. But level par wasn’t a bad score. I feel like my game is improving day by day, and today I hit a lot of good golf shots.
“With the wind, an average shot actually becomes a good one. I hit a lot of fairways and that makes it easier around this course.”