(Reuters) - Russell Henley is known for his ability to make birdies in bunches and he piled up eight of them as he surged into a one-shot lead in the second round of the $5.6 million McGladrey Classic at Sea Island in Georgia on Friday.
Competing in his home state, the 25-year-old American picked up four shots in his last six holes to fire a best-of-the-week, seven-under-par 63 on the Seaside Course and seize control in the third event of the PGA Tour’s 2014-15 season.
Henley, bidding for his third career victory on the U.S. circuit, covered his back nine in a sizzling five-under 30 to post a nine-under total of 131.
Burly Zimbabwean Brendon de Jonge (64) and Americans Brian Harman (67) and Andrew Svoboda (66) were tied for second, with Will MacKenzie (68), Mark Wilson (66) and Fabian Gomez (66) a further stroke back at seven under.
Henley, who clinched his second PGA Tour victory at the Honda Classic in March, took advantage of ideal scoring conditions after setting off in one of the earliest groups of the day.
“It was beautiful when we teed off,” Henley told Golf Channel after ending his round with birdies at the fourth, fifth, sixth and the par-four eighth, his 17th hole of the day.
”It was cool and the ball wasn’t going nearly as far as normal but the greens are perfect and I felt really comfortable. I made some putts, and I feel like I could have made a couple more (putts) too.
“I just felt really comfortable off the tee. I’ve been hitting the driver really well and once you get in the fairways out here, if you hit it on the right side of the hole, you’ve got a good birdie attempt.”
Henley, who studied consumer economics at the University of Georgia, has been delighted to have several friends and family members watching him compete.
“It makes it easier for me,” he said. “It makes me realize that golf is not the only thing that I‘m here for and usually I play better in that scenario.”
American Chris Kirk, who won last year’s McGladrey Classic by one shot, was four shots off the pace at five under after carding a five-birdie 67.
The cut fell at even-par 140 with former Masters champion Zach Johnson and triple major winner Padraig Harrington of Ireland among those failing to advance.
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Gene Cherry