(Reuters) – Brendon Todd used a red-hot putter to claim sole ownership of the lead at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational in Memphis on Friday, sitting two strokes ahead of Rickie Fowler after the second round.
World number 51 Todd, who won two PGA Tour titles on consecutive starts last November, carded a bogey-free, five-under-par 65 at TPC Southwind for an 11-under halfway total.
The 35-year-old American, who converted an impressive 50-foot birdie putt over a slope at the par-three 14th, walked off the course feeling better than ever heading into the weekend.
“In my whole life, this is definitely the most confident I’ve ever felt with my golf game. It’s probably the most versatile I’ve ever been ball-striking-wise,” said Todd.
“I still don’t hit it far, but I feel like I’m able to shape shots a little bit. And my short game’s solid, so it just kind of comes down to how the putting is.”
Fowler, who holed three back-to-back birdies on the front nine, shot a double-bogey on 11, before recovering with a birdie-birdie finish for a three-under-par 67.
The 31-year-old has not finished in the top 10 since the Tour returned from its coronavirus hiatus, but told reporters that he feels he is “heading in the right direction.”
“My main goal is (to) go through some changes for the better. Sometimes you’ve got to take that step back to take two steps forward,” said Fowler. “I feel like we already made the step back, I feel like we’ve made a step forward. I’m looking for that next step.”
Defending champion Brooks Koepka and South Korean An Byeong-hun finished the day four strokes off the lead.
Koepka, who led by two shots after the first round, started on the back nine and reached the turn at two under for the round but made double-bogey at the par-four second where his tee shot found a fairway bunker and then needed three putts from 57 feet.
The four-times major winner, who struggled in his last three events, said his putter let him down on Friday during his one-over-par 71 but that he was not going to lose sleep with plenty of golf still to play.
“I felt like I did everything we were trying to do, just wasn’t working, wasn’t seeing the line,” said Koepka, who will defend his PGA Championship title next week.
“Even yesterday I said I didn’t feel quite comfortable over anything inside five feet and today it just felt kind of the same.
“I’ve got 36 holes to go, man, I ain’t worried.”
(This story refiles to reflect end of round in headline)
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto and Amy Tennery in New York; Editing by Toby Davis)