South Africa’s Branden Grace plays his shot on the twelfth fairway during the second round of the PGA Championship golf tournament. Photo: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
South Africa’s Branden Grace plays his shot on the twelfth fairway during the second round of the PGA Championship golf tournament. Photo: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

South African Branden Grace charges to PGA lead at windy Kiawah

By AFP Time of article published May 21, 2021

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KIAWAH ISLAND – South Africa's Branden Grace holed out from 70 feet in a sandy waste area for birdie and owned a one-stroke lead early in Friday's second round of the PGA Championship at windy Kiawah Island.

The 33-year-old from Pretoria defied gusting breezes to stand 5-under for the tournament and 3-under for the round as the longest course in major history humbled an elite field.

Grace holed a seven-foot birdie putt at the par-5 second, dropped his approach inches from the cup for a tap-in birdie at the par-5 seventh, rescued par from eight feet at the eighth and then made his pitch in at the 10th to take command.

It wasn't easy, with Grace laying down on the fairway and stretching at the par-5 11th to stay in shape for the closing challenge.

World number 92 Grace, who won his second US PGA title in February at the Puerto Rico Open, made his best major result of third at the 2015 PGA but is best known for firing a major record-low round of 62 at the 2017 British Open at Royal Birkdale.

Standing second was South African Christiaan Bezuidenhout, who sank a 31-foot eagle putt at the par-5 seventh and added a birdie at the par-5 11th to reach 4-under.

England's Ian Poulter, chasing his first major title at age 45, eagled the par-5 seventh and added back-to-back birdies at nine and 10 to share third on 3-under after an opening 74 on Thursday.

Poulter has eight top-10 major finishes, the best a 2008 British Open runner-up effort, but hasn't had one since the 2015 Masters.

Americans Richy Werenski and Kevin Streelman had reached 3-under from among morning starters but faded with back-nine bogeys.

Afternoon starters on 3-under 69 included four-time major winner Brooks Koepka, 2011 PGA winner Keegan Bradley, fellow American Aaron Wise and Norway's Viktor Hovland.

Two-time US Open champion Koepka, who plays through pain after right knee surgery in March, put himself in contention for a third PGA crown in four years.

European Ryder Cup captain Padraig Harrington, a 49-year-old Irishman with three major triumphs, was in the fight to become the oldest major winner in history on 2-under.

Back-nine starter Harrington, who shot 71 Thursday, sank a four-foot birdie putt at the par-3 13th and answered a bogey at the first with a birdie at the second.

Harrington won the 2008 PGA and the 2007 and 2008 British Opens.

American Julius Boros set the age mark when he won the 1968 PGA Championship at age 48.

Three-time major winner Jordan Spieth, a back-nine starter, was 2-over for the tournament after back-to-back bogeys at 17 and 18 as he chased a victory to complete a career Grand Slam.

Spain's Jon Rahm opened on the back nine with back-to-back birdies to pull within one of the lead, but the world number three splashed a tee shot into the water at the par-3 17th and made double bogey then took a bogey at 18 to fall back.

Dustin Johnson, who struggled to an opening 76 in his home state, was 6-over for the tournament after eight holes Friday and in danger of being the first world number one to miss consecutive major cuts since Greg Norman in 1997 at the Masters and US Open.

Johnson missed the cut defending the green jacket at last month's Masters.

- Lowry visits the beach -

Canada's Corey Conners, the 18-hole leader after an opening 67, made five bogeys on his first six holes after a 10th-tee start to stumble back.

England's Sam Horsfield, two adrift after 18 holes, made bogeys on three of the first four holes to fade while Australian Cam Davis, who also fired a 69 Thursday, began with a double bogey Friday at the 10th.

Other afternoon starters will include defending champion Collin Morikawa, US Open winner Bryson DeChambeau and Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama of Japan in a pairing of reigning major champions.

Ireland's Shane Lowry, the 2019 British Open champion, drove well right onto the Atlantic Ocean beach at the par-5 16th on his way to a par to stay on 1-under overall.

Four-time major winner Rory McIlroy, who won the 2012 PGA at Kiawah, and second-ranked Justin Thomas, who both shot 75 Thursday, face an afternoon fight to make the cut to the low 70 and ties.


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