Colt Knost shot a six-under 66 on Friday to take a two-stroke lead over Carl Pettersson after the second round of the RBC Heritage.
Knost, who had been tied for the first-round lead with Chad Campbell and Vaughn Taylor after a 67, had three birdies in a four-hole stretch midway through the round and finished at 9-under 133.
Pettersson had a 65, his best ever showing in 32 career rounds at Harbour Town Golf Links. Two-time RBC Heritage winner Boo Weekley (66) and Harris English (68) were another shot off the lead at six-under in a week when Masters champion Bubba Watson and most of the world’s best took a break following the year’s first major.
World No. 1 Luke Donald, though, was among the few stars at Harbour Town. He needs a top-eight finish to retain the top spot over idle No. 2, Rory McIlroy, and bounced back from an opening 75 with a 69 to slide inside the cut line.
Campbell (70) and Robert Garrigus (66) were four shots behind. Defending champion Brandt Snedeker had five consecutive birdies on the way to a 67 and was tied with Michael Bradley (64), Kevin Na (68), Bob Estes (67) and Fredrik Jacobson (67) at four-under.
The 26-year-old Knost was one of the fastest risers in golf a few years ago, winning the US Amateur, the US Public Links championship and helping the US team win the Walker Cup in 2007. He won twice on the Nationwide Tour in 2008, his first season as a pro, and easily qualified for the big tour, but missed the cut in 13 of 24 tour events in 2009 and lost his card.
“I felt like I was ready for this level out here,” Knost said. “And apparently, I wasn’t.”
He regained playing privileges after another season on the Nationwide Tour and yet again struggled at the higher level, missing cuts in 15 of 26 events, only retaining his card via Q-school.
“I don’t know if I just didn’t continue with the same work ethic or not or I didn’t have the belief, but it was a struggle for a few years out here,” Knost said. “But now I feel like I’m starting to get my game back where I like it.”
His round got going with a stretch of three birdies in four holes to give him the lead at eight-under. He made his final birdie on the par-five fifth and finished off the bogey-free round that stoked his confidence.
Pettersson’s round was highlighted by a run of three straight birdies on the second, third and fourth holes.
Weekley missed 10 cuts in 2010 and 11 the next season as he struggled to overcome a torn labrum and a cyst in his left shoulder from 2009.
He has a new instructor in Scott Hamilton and a new caddie in John Connelly who “reads the greens good, where I struggle a lot,” Weekley said.
He posted six birdies and one bogey to shoot himself into contention.
Donald came out firing in the second round with birdies on the second, sixth and seventh holes. He needed par saves, though, on Harbour Town’s three finishing holes, including a testy four-footer on No. 18, to reach the weekend.
Those missing the cut here included No. 18 in the world and last year’s FedEx Cup champion Bill Haas and a pair of three-time major champions in Ernie Els and Padraig Harrington. Els, who missed the Masters last week after 18 straight appearances, shot an eight-over 43 on his final nine holes, including a triple-bogey seven on the 18th that kept him from playing the weekend.