Webb Simpson, seeking his first PGA Tour win since his US Open triumph last year, fired an eight-under 63 on Friday to take a four-shot halfway lead in the Shriners Hospitals Open.
Webb had nine birdies and one bogey at TPC Summerlin, where his 15-under total of 127 put him four shots in front of a group of five players.
American J.J. Henry, who held the first-round lead with a sparkling 60, carded an even-par 71 to join the bunch on 131, which included Australian John Senden (66) and Americans Jeff Overton (68), Chesson Hadley (66) and Jason Bohn (64).
The defending champion in the US$6 million event, Ryan Moore, matched Simpson for the low round of the day with a 63 that put him tied for seventh on 132 with Scotland’s Russell Knox, who posted a 65.
“I hit a couple of loose shots today, but just really managed to make putts and take advantage of the holes that you have to make birdie on,” Simpson said.
He has hit 32 of 36 greens in regulation over the first two rounds and averaged just 1.53 putts per green.
Henry followed up his course-record effort on Thursday with an even-par round that featured four birdies and four bogeys.
Hadley — the winner of the Web.com Tour Championship who is making only his fourth PGA Tour start and his second as a tour member — had eight birdies and three bogeys in his five-under round.
“It’s been a fantastic start to the week, and to have a chance going into the weekend is awesome,” Hadley said. “[I’m] just looking to manage the nerves tomorrow and just realize it’s just golf, and let’s just go have some fun.”
Although Simpson did not post a win in the 2012-2013 season, he did qualify for the Tour Championship for the third straight year. His five top-10 finishes included a playoff loss to Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell at the Heritage.
A final-round 63 vaulted him to fourth in the season-ending Tour Championship.
“I haven’t won this year, but my one goal every year is to get better, and I felt like I got better,” Simpson said.
The tournament is the second in the PGA Tour’s new-look 2013-2014 program.
Six tournaments are scheduled before January, offering FedEx Cup playoff points and a coveted Masters berth to the winner.