(Reuters) - Russell Knox sank a 13-foot birdie at the final hole to join Andrew Putnam as leader of the $6.2 million Shiners Hospitals for Children Open after the second round in Las Vegas on Friday.
Knox, coming off a solid season in which he finished 40th in the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup standings, overcame two early bogeys to card a four-under-par 67 at the TPC Summerlin in Nevada.
He and tour rookie Putnam, whose brother Michael also plays on tour, were at 10-under 132, a stroke ahead of Andrew Svoboda (67) and Tony Finau (65), while defending champion Webb Simpson (65) was among a group two shots behind.
Martin Laird was tied for the lead after 15 holes before making a double bogey to finish the day two shots off the pace.
Stewart Cink had a nightmare start with a quadruple-bogey at his second hole, where he took six strokes to hole out from a greenside bunker. He ended the round seven strokes back.
Knox, 29, has not won on Tour, his closest call coming in a four-way playoff at last year’s Honda Classic, but he has progressed steadily in his two-plus seasons on the game’s biggest stage.
“I don’t want to change anything,” he told Golf Channel. “I feel my progression has been nice and steady and if I just keep doing the same things I’m doing, I’ll improve year after year.”
Not that his second round was all smooth sailing.
“I didn’t get off to a great start. I got a bit worried because I was all over the map I didn’t feel real good with my swing (but) I knew if I just made some pars eventually something would click and I made some putts which settled me down.”
Simpson, meanwhile, was rarely in trouble and hit 17 greens in regulation to move within striking distance of the leaders at the halfway mark.
“It was one of those days you really enjoy because it seems pretty easy,” the 2012 U.S. Open champion said.
“Nothing really jumped out (as being extra special). Just ball on the fairway, ball on the green and made a few putts.”
This is Simpson’s first event since a wretched Ryder Cup, where he played only two matches (halving one and losing the other) after being one of American captain Tom Watson’s three wild-card picks.
This week’s Las Vegas tournament is the second on the 2014-15 PGA Tour schedule.
Reporting By Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina, editing by Gene Cherry/Peter Rutherford