WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — As Kelly Kraft continued taming the Old White TPC, he seemed so comfortable and confident it was hard to fathom how in 84 PGA Tour events he had never been a 36-hole leader.
That drought ended Friday, putting the 29-year-old former SMU golfer halfway home to his first pro victory.
“I’ve got a lot of confidence going into the weekend,” Kraft said after moving to 13-under at the Greenbrier with a career-low round of 63. “I’ve just got to keep the pedal down.”
He sank a 27-foot birdie putt on No. 8, dropped in a 21-footer from the fringe of the ninth green, and curled a 151-yard approach shot within 5 feet on No. 11.
“It seems like I have a makable look almost every hole, and you’re bound to make a few of them,” Kraft said.
After missing 13 cuts in 24 tournaments this season, Kraft ranks 186th in the world and 119th in the FedExCup standings. But he has played six rounds in the 60s at the Greenbrier, dating back to last year when he finished in fifth place.
“I played well here last year, so I have a lot of good memories,” he said.
First-round leader Webb Simpson and Anirban Lahiri reside one stroke behind Kraft at 12-under. Both have posted career-best 61s this week, Lahiri’s coming Friday when he felt as though “I could birdie every hole.”
Simpson opened ominously on the back nine, suffering a double-bogey on the 12th and a bogey on No. 13. He recovered to play the final 14 holes at 5-under, crediting a level temperament.
“I’ve always thought it was fun watching golfers who, attitude-wise you couldn’t tell how many under or over par they were, and I’ve never done well when I’ve gotten too excited or too upset,” Simpson said.
“If somebody’s watching me, I don’t want them to know what I’m doing. And I think on days like today, it pays off — 2-over early, not showing an attitude, kind of hanging in there. It keeps you kind of focused on what’s present and what shot I’m about to hit.”
Jason Kokrak (-11) shot 64 Friday, while Whee Kim and Harold Varner III were tied for fifth at 10-under.
As expected, the largest galleries followed Phil Mickelson (-5) and Bubba Watson (-6), stars who’ll require big weekends to chase down the leaders.
Mickelson’s second shot on the par-5 No. 12 found the water, leading to a bogey. He made amends on the par-3 15th hole with a 38-foot birdie putt.