(Reuters) - Former amateur champion Norman Xiong has made a rocky start to his professional career, but he took a step in the right direction by seizing a share of the halfway lead at the Sanderson Farms Championship in Mississippi on Friday.
Xiong, born on the U.S. island territory of Guam to Chinese parents, carded five-under-par 67 in the second round at Country Club of Jackson on Friday and tied Cameron Champ at nine-under 135.
Champ bogeyed his final two holes to shoot 70. Fellow Americans Shawn Stefani and Jonathan Byrd, who both shot 68, are a shot further back on 136.
Xiong hit his share of errant shots, but a chip-in birdie at the sixth hole and a 55-foot eagle putt from the fringe at the 11th kept his ship sailing along nicely.
“Things kind of went my way (but) I’ll take it,” the teenager told Golf Channel. “Those good breaks help.
“I have a few things to clean up. My game’s not perfectly where I want it but if I manage it well hopefully this can continue.”
If Xiong, who turns 20 on Nov. 9, triumphs on Sunday, he would become only the second teenager to win on the PGA Tour since 1931. Jordan Spieth was two weeks shy of his 20th birthday when he won the 2013 John Deere Classic.
Xiong was crowned the top collegiate golfer in the U.S. earlier this year before turning pro six months ago.
His coach at the University of Oregon was Casey Martin, who was a college team mate of Tiger Woods at Stanford.
“At 19 years old, I think Tiger is the only guy I would defer to as being better than Norman,” Martin told golfchannel.com in April.
Xiong, however, missed the cut in his first six starts as a pro, a far cry from where Woods was at the same stage of his career, already a winner on the PGA Tour.
Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Greg Stutchbury