Toru Taniguchi, known as the ‘Japanese Tiger’, emerged as the surprise leader midway through the Nissan Open in Pacific Palisades, California.
Playing in his first PGA Tour event of the year, the 34-year-old carded a four-under-par 67 at the Riviera Country Club to open a one-stroke lead over a quartet of players.
His 36-hole total of 133 was nine under par.
First-round leader Jesper Parnevik is in a four-way tie for second with Brad Faxon, former UCLA star Scott McCarron and Len Mattiace on 134.
McCarron put the local knowledge to good use, shooting the day’s low round, a six-under 65.
Bob Tway is alone in sixth spot on seven under at 135, one shot ahead of another quartet that includes David Duval.
While virtually unknown on the PGA Tour, Taniguchi did have some success on American soil last year with four top-10 finishes in nine events.
His ambition is to follow in the footsteps of countryman Shigeki Maruyama, who last year became the first Japanese native to win a tournament in the United States when he captured the Greater Milwaukee Open.
Parnevik dropped out of the lead before teeing off for his second round and trailed by four strokes at the ninth, but he made a late charge, birdieing four of his final seven holes to climb within one shot of the lead.