(Reuters) – Ten months after shooting 59, Brandt Snedeker almost matched the feat when he carded a 10-under-par 60 in the second round at the Canadian Open in Ontario on Friday.
Although he ended the day one stroke behind American leaders Matt Kuchar and Scott Brown, Snedeker was the star of the show, driving the ball with laser-like accuracy and wielding a hot putter at Hamilton Golf & Country Club.
“My putting, when I get hot the hole (looks like) a beach ball to me. Today I felt like that,” the American told Golf Channel after posting an 11-under 129 halfway total, tied for third with Canadian Nick Taylor (65).
Kuchar and Brown shot matching 63s to set a cracking pace, while Rory McIlroy, in his first appearance at the event, carded a 66 to trail the leaders by five strokes.
First-round leader Keegan Bradley (71) slipped six behind, while world number one Brooks Koepka (66) and defending champion Dustin Johnson (65) trailed by eight.
Snedeker shot his 59 at the Wyndham Championship in Greensboro last August and on Friday came within a whisker of becoming the second man to twice break 60 on the PGA Tour.
Jim Furyk is the only one to accomplish the feat, managing a 58, an all-time record, as well as a 59.
Snedeker, a nine-times PGA Tour winner, was at home on Friday on a course that demands precision more than power, notching eight birdies and an eagle.
“I drove the ball fantastic, missed two fairways, and do that around here and you set yourself up for success,” he said.
“I made a couple of putts early to get the momentum going and just gave myself a lot of opportunities, did a good job of staying patient, putting the ball in play, played to my strengths.
“When you make a lot of putts and get hot like this it’s a lot of fun.”
Snedeker got a little lucky at his final hole, the par-four ninth, where his approach shot narrowly cleared a greenside bunker, his ball taking a fortuitous kick down to within five feet of the cup.
He converted the putt with his unmistakeable pop putting stroke in which he accelerates the putter-head through the ball, reminiscent of Tom Watson and Arnold Palmer in their prime.
Snedeker has also registered three scores of 61 during his career, and has a theory of why he has gone so low, so often.
“I’m not scared about going low. I realize these days don’t happen too often. More often than not you’re getting beat up so when they happen you’ve got to take advantage of it.”
His performance certainly impressed playing companion Justin Thomas, whose 65 took him to five-under-par. “Man, that guy can putt,” he said.
Co-leader Kuchar said he had made some key par saves to complement his healthy quota of birdies.
“I’ve done a good job of managing and giving myself some chances, saved pars and thrown in some awfully good play as well with a handful of birdies,” he said.
Brown made five successive birdies from the second hole, his 11th, to match Kuchar’s halfway score.
“That stretch is where you’ve got to take advantage of it out here. You have some shorter holes, some shorter clubs in,” Brown said.
(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Ken Ferris)