(Reuters) - PGA Tour rookie Justin Thomas carded nine-under-par 61 to charge into a share of the lead with fellow Americans Matt Kuchar and Webb Simpson after the second round at the Sony Open in Hawaii on Friday.
Thomas closed brilliantly, picking up four strokes in his final three holes as he went birdie, birdie before capping off his day with an eagle from 16 feet at the par-four ninth at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu.
He joined Kuchar (63) and Simpson (66) at 12-under 128, two strokes ahead of South African Tim Clark and American Troy Merritt.
“I‘m very excited for the weekend,” 21-year-old Thomas told Golf Channel after coming within one shot of the course record held by Davis Love.
“It’s a position I haven’t been in before. I think that comes with the territory, being a rookie.”
His score came after a quiet start of six straight pars, before the floodgates opened.
“I wasn’t getting anything going, tried to stay patient, hit some fairways and got in some spots where I had easier putts and just got on a roll the last 12 holes,” he continued.
World number 11 Kuchar said accuracy off the tee had been the key to his 63.
“I drove it really well and when you drive it well the course becomes much more attackable. It was a much better ball-striking round and I’ve continued two days of really good putting,” he said
First round co-leader Simpson was pleased with another solid day on the greens with a regular putter, in just his second event since abandoning the mid-length belly putter after a decade of use.
Clark moved into the hunt after a stance adjustment.
“I‘m standing a little bit taller so I‘m getting a bit more width with my swing and everything seems to be coming off the middle of the club,” he said.
The short-hitting Clark, winner of the Canadian Open last July, finished equal 25th at last week’s Tournament of Champions on the nearby island of Maui, but the compact Waialae course is more suited to his game.
Sixteen-year-old local Kyle Suppa made the cut, 10 strokes behind after a second successive 69.
Suppa, the Hawaii amateur stroke play champion, attends Punahou School in Honolulu, the same school where U.S. President Barack Obama was a student.
Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by John O'Brien