American JJ Henry will probably never have a better chance to win on the US Tour than he does at the FBR Open in Arizona.
In front of a record crowd of 117,540 a brilliant second-round 61 – one off the course record and three shots lower than his previous best on the circuit - took him into the weekend four clear of rookie John Holmes.
And Henry’s chances were given a mighty late boost when defending champion Phil Mickelson, having grabbed eight birdies to be in joint third spot, finished with a double bogey.
Five of the world’s top 10 are playing in the event, but Sergio Garcia missed the halfway cut after a dismal 74 and both Vijay Singh and Chris DiMarco are a massive 11 shots adrift.
England’s Justin Rose and Brian Davis are joint 19th, but nine strokes back, while Graeme McDowell and Greg Owen joined Garcia in making an early exit.
Henry, with two missed cuts out of two this season coming into the event, had seven birdies in a row from the ninth, one short of the tour record.
“I guess you could say I was in that zone,” he said. “It was just one of those days. The hole looked big for some reason.”
Henry sank five putts of 26 feet or longer, a 29-footer for par on the first hole setting the tone for the day.
He admitted a 59 was on his mind after the 15th. “After I made that birdie putt I looked at my caddie and said ’if we birdie the last three holes there’s that magic number’.” He managed just one more, though.
Mickelson’s closing six dropped him to eighth, seven behind Henry, and he said after a 66: “It hurt. I just didn’t finish with the score I had hoped and I have to shoot seven or eight under par tomorrow to have a chance on Sunday.”
Rose was in danger of missing the cut when he stood on the ninth tee level par, but he played the last 10 in five under.
Graeme McDowell failed to make the cut.