WASHINGTON (AFP) – Nate Lashley maintained his one-shot lead at the US PGA Tour’s Rocket Mortgage Classic Friday, firing a five-under par 67 for a 14-under par total of 130 to keep red-hot Cameron Champ at bay.
Champ, seeking the second victory of his inaugural US PGA Tour season, surged up the leaderboard at Detroit Golf Club with an eight-under 28 on the front nine before finishing with a seven-under 65.
He was in the clubhouse on 13-under 131 as Lashley, an alternate who was the last player to make it into the field, finished his follow-up to a first-round 63.
Two-under through his first nine holes, Lashley added three birdies coming in, including back-to-back birdies at the first and second and a birdie at the par-five seventh.
Champ, who missed the cut in eight of his last 10 starts, set a sizzling early pace, reeling off five birdies in a row starting at the second hole before an eagle at the par-five seventh and a birdie at the ninth.
He needed only 12 putts on the front side with birdie putts from six feet at two, 11 feet at the third, eight feet at the par-five fourth, 13 feet at the par-three fifth and 14 feet at the sixth, then eagled from seven feet at seven and dropped a birdie putt from just inside 19 feet at the par-three ninth.
“The putt on five, the par-three there, was a big breaker downhill. I put it right down the middle,” Champ said. “On six same thing. Everything kept flowing. For the first nine holes, the hole looked pretty big for a while.”
While visions of breaking 60 abounded, Champ cooled off on the back nine, making bogey at 13 and following a birdie at the par-five 17th on a nine-foot putt with a closing bogey, missing a four-footer for par.
“The back side, I really didn’t play terrible. I just hit a few shots that limited my ability to get it close to the hole,” Champ said. “Missed a few putts I wish I could get back but that’s how it goes.”
Champ’s only prior US PGA title came last October at the start of the current campaign when he captured the Sanderson Farms Championship, which was played opposite the WGC HSBC Champions event in Shanghai.
Charles Howell was alone in third after a 67 for 132.
Gary Woodland, the American who won his first major title two weeks ago at the US Open at Pebble Beach, fired a 69 but his two-under total of 142 saw him miss the cut by three strokes, as did world number two Dustin Johnson.