Englishman Luke Donald moved into a one-shot lead at the half-way stage of the EDS Byron Nelson Championship on Friday.
Brett Wetterich, a surprise winner of last year’s event, joined first-round leader Sean O’Hair (69) and Swede Fredrik Jacobson (67) in a tie for second at six-under 134 on a day when Donald carded 66 to set the halfway pace.
Donald’s game appears to be headed in the right direction, after an early season mini-slump. He was close to the lead all day, before going to the front with a chip-in birdie from 45 feet at the par-three 17th at the Four Seasons TPC host course.
And given his excellent record here – his past 10 rounds have been in the 60s - there is no reason to think he won’t be in contention on Sunday afternoon.
“I’ve always been very consistent around here,” said the softly spoken Englishman, a member of last year’s victorious European Ryder Cup team.
“It’s not about hitting the driver every hole. You don’t have to overpower it, don’t have to be ultra-long.
“I’ve driven it well this week, kept it in play and not made many mistakes. I’m hitting a decent amount of greens and when I’m missing greens, I’m (chipping) it close.”
Wetterich compiled two birdies and 16 pars for a steady two under par 68.
“Anytime you don’t make a bogey, it’s a good day,” he said.
“There could have been a few more birdies, but I also could have made a couple of bogeys. I made a couple of good pars, and that kept my round going,” continued Wetterich, 33, who is not quite sure why he has played so well here the past six rounds.
“I’m not sure if I’m the horse for this course, but I’ve played well here. Maybe I’m just hitting the ball good or playing well at the time I come here.”
Wetterich was an unheralded journeyman when he arrived last year, but he parlayed his victory into a spot on the United States Ryder Cup team. And just last month he shared the half-way lead at the Masters, albeit before blowing up with a third round 83.
“The middle to last part of last year, I felt I was starting to play really well and to understand how to play out here and get things done,” he said.
“Even this year, I feel like I’m better than I was towards the end of last year, so it’s been a work in progress, but I think it’s going the right way.”
John Senden, who played with Wetterich said: “Brett’s strong off the tee and he’s a good putter too. He commits well to the shots. I was watching his demeanour and he’s quite intense, keen and focused on every shot.”
O’Hair, meanwhile, eagled the par-five seventh with an unlikely chip-in, but surrendered the lead by dropping two shots on the back nine.
“I didn’t have much to work with,” he said of his eagle chip-in. “The chip was on a downhill slope in some nasty rough, about five paces off the green.
“It was one of those shots where you just do the best you can and, luckily, it went in the hole. I was just trying to keep it somewhere around the hole so I could have a decent putt at it.”
Only eight strokes separated the 73 players who made the cut. Among those within striking distance of the lead was Phil Mickelson, six shots from the lead.
But Mickelson knew he should have been closer, after playing the back nine at Cottonwood Valley in two over.
“I played okay, but I missed five putts inside six feet,” Mickelson said. “That’s what hurt, but I shot even par, and I’ve got a shot at it this weekend.”