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Schauffele sizzles at PGA’s CJ Cup

Xander Schauffele began his second round by missing a four-foot birdie putt. That was hardly a sign of what was to follow Friday in the CJ Cup at Shadow Creek.

The American made putts as short as three feet and as long as 35 feet. He chipped in from 20 feet. He seemingly couldn’t miss during a two-hour stretch when he made seven birdies over eight holes, including six in a row, for a career-best 29 on the back nine.

His momentum slowed with the pace of play, and he settled an eight-under 64 for a three-shot lead over Englishman Tyrrell Hatton who shot a second-round four-under 68.

“Some of those holes, you’re not really trying to birdie them, you’re just trying to leave yourself an uphill 35-footer. And fortunately, I made a couple of them,” Schauffele said.

“Upset I didn’t make more birdies, but pleased I didn’t make any bogeys.”

Jason Day is the pick of the Australians. He’s tied for 15th after firing consecutive two-under-par 70s to be ten off the pace.

Cameron Smith is at one under after a round two 74 while Marc Leishman is at even after his 71.

26-year-old Shauffele is at 14-under and now has the course record at Shadow Creek, which is hosting the CJ Cup this year only because the COVID-19 pandemic made travel to South Korea impractical.

Russell Henley (68) was a further shot back at 10-under while defending champion Justin Thomas carded a 66 and was eight shots behind at the halfway point.

“I guess I played my way somewhat back into it,” he said before turning to look at the scores on a nearby monitor.

“But Xander kind of went off today, so that makes it a little harder.”

It wasn’t just Schauffele making birdies.

He played alongside PGA champion Collin Morikawa, who shot a 65, and Viktor Hovland, who had a 66.

Brooks Koepka had to settle for a 68 and sits 10 shots behind Schauffele, as does Spaniard Jon Rahm who can return to No.1 in the world with a victory.

Compatriot Sergio Garcia is 11 off the pace after his round-two 70, while Rory McIlroy had a mixed bag of seven birdies and four bogeys for a 69, leaving him 12 behind.

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