(Reuters) – Patrick Rodgers took a small step towards living up to the expectations heaped upon him when he tied a Tiger Woods college record by taking a two-stroke halfway lead at the John Deere Classic in Illinois on Friday.
Rodgers, who has struggled to translate the promise he showed as amateur world number one into professional success over the last three years, plundered eight birdies in a seven-under-par 64 at TPC Deere Run in Silvis.
The 25-year-old ended his second round on a sour note with a three-putt bogey at the last but his 13-under total of 129 was enough for the two-stroke cushion over fellow American Bryson DeChambeau, who shot a 65 to stand clear in second place.
John Deere specialist Zach Johnson, who fired a 67, and first-round co-leader Charles Howell III (69) were tied in third place on 10-under at the halfway point of the tournament.
Rodgers followed in the footsteps of Woods by playing his college golf at Stanford University, where he won 11 amateur tournaments to match the tally of his illustrious predecessor.
Woods went on to win 79 PGA Tour events but Rodgers is still stuck on zero, with a second-place in 2015 his best result in 77 starts.
On Friday, though, he caught fire after a slow start, nailing a 50-foot chip-in for birdie at his 12th and a 50-foot birdie putt four holes later.
“I’m starting to drive it nice so I’m giving myself a lot of wedges from the fairways and able to make some birdies,” Rodgers told PGATour.com, before outlining his plan to be aggressive over the weekend.
“It’s got to be pedal to the metal, because 13-under is not going to win this.”
His first bogey of the week came at his 36th hole, the par-four ninth, where he felt he fell victim to the golfing gods.
“I roasted a three-wood into a divot; hit it on the green and both my putts hit spike marks. Nothing I can do about that,” he said.
DeChambeau was also a highly-credentialled amateur, one of only five players to win the U.S. Amateur Championship and the U.S. collegiate title in the same year.
A physics major, DeChambeau plays with all of his irons the same length, the theory being that single-length clubs require only one swing rather than having to make constant adjustments with every change.
Third-placed Johnson, meanwhile, continued his remarkable form in his hometown event, where he finished in the top three six times over seven years from 2009 to 2015, including a win in 2012.
(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina, editing by Nick Mulvenney)