(Reuters) - Tyler Aldridge birdied three of his last four holes to break clear of a congested leaderboard and edge a stroke in front early in the second round of the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas on Friday.
The American journeyman, who has played most of his competitive golf on satellite tours in the United States and Canada, nearly holed out with his second shot at the par-four 18th before tapping in the birdie putt for a three-under-par 68.
That left Aldridge at 10-under 132, one ahead of fellow American Nick Watney and burly Zimbabwean Brendon de Jonge, who both fired 66s on another day of ideal scoring conditions at the TPC Summerlin in the Nevada desert.
Two more Americans, Ryan Palmer and Patton Kizzire, were a further stroke back at eight under after carding matching rounds of 69.
Aldridge, one of 13 players who had to return to the course early on Friday to complete the opening round, was delighted to be in contention for a maiden PGA Tour title after playing just one full season on the U.S. circuit, back in 2009.
“I’m very pleased,” the 31-year-old told Golf Channel after seizing the outright lead with birdies at the 15th, 16th and the last, where he struck his second shot from 135 yards to six inches.
“I am hitting the ball well, putting well and things are going my way. It feels great (to be back on the PGA Tour).
“It’s been a while and I’ve put a lot of hard work in. I’m just looking forward to what’s to come.”
Aldridge, who had opened with a 64 to share the first-round lead with compatriots Mark Hubbard and Michael Thompson, and Canada’s David Hearn, was thrilled with his final approach of the day.
“My caddie and I just had a good number,” he smiled as he spoke about his second shot at the 18th. “We picked a good target, the wind was off the right a little bit and I almost made it.”
American world number five Rickie Fowler, the highest-ranked player in the field who opened with a one-over 72, was among the late starters and needed to go low in his bid to make the cut.
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Andrew Both