WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — Scottie Scheffler had one of the better opening rounds of any player with an afternoon tee time Thursday at the Old White TPC Course.
The 65 left him three shots off the lead at A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier and in a 10-way tie for seventh place.
On Friday, Scheffler capitalized and then some on an earlier start, carding a bogey free 62 that leaves him tied for first place with Joaquin Niemann and Robby Shelton at 13-under par.
The round of the day belonged to Kevin Chappell, who was in jeopardy of missing the cut after opening the tournament with a 1-over par round of 71. But he birdied nine consecutive holes and 11 overall Friday to tie the tourney record. Stuart Appleby’s final round 59 in the inaugural edition of the tournament in 2010 set the standard for nine years.
Starting on the back nine, Chappell made birdie on holes 11-1 and added two more on the fifth and seventh.
With one bogey through his first 36 holes, Scheffler has put himself in position to contend over the weekend in his 12th career PGA Tour event and this season’s opening tournament.
“I feel like my ball striking has been good the last few days,” Scheffler said. “I haven’t put myself in too many bad situations.”
Scheffler made birdie on each of his first four holes Friday and made the turn to the first tee box at 6-under par for the day. He missed a 7-foot putt on No. 1 that would’ve given him a seventh birdie for the round, but quickly responded by draining a 10-foot putt for birdie on No. 2.
Scheffler, 23, made par on each of his next six holes, before ending his day with a 117-yard shot that he hit to within 3 feet for a birdie on the ninth.
“I felt like I got off to a really good start, which definitely helps,” Scheffler said. “Made a few nice putts at the beginning of the round and ball striking was really solid again today, so I had plenty of looks. Pretty stress-free so far.”
The points leader on the Korn Ferry Tour for the 2019 season, Scheffler has made birdie on the 12th and 17th holes in both rounds at Old White — the only two par 5 holes on the course.
Following a subar putting performance Thursday, six of Scheffler’s eight birdie putts in Friday’s round were made from beyond 10 feet, including more than 100 total feet on holes 10-13.
“I gave myself a little more room in my chest, let the arms flow a little bit more,” Scheffler said. “Pretty simple. Not anything major. Just a little bit of a feel thing.”
Niemann, who teed off early Thursday and Friday afternoon, matched Scheffler’s 62 to tie for the lead.
The 20-year-old from Chile has yet to make a bogey through 36 holes and recorded an eagle on No. 12 Friday. He also made birdie on holes No. 11, 17, 18, 1, 4 and 5.
“It was a really solid round. I haven’t made a bogey yet, so that’s also great,” Niemann said. “I just need to keep playing the way I have been playing. I’ve hit wedges close to the pin, hit my driver well and I’m really happy with the way I’ve been playing. Just need to keep it that way for the weekend.”
Shelton slept on the lead Thursday night after opening the tournament with a 62. He birdied six holes on Friday to join the three-way tie at the top.
Adam Long is in solo possession of fourth and one back of the leaders after firing a 62 on Friday, while Chappell is fifth by himself at 10-under.
Cameron Smith and Nate Lashley each shot a 64 Friday to leave themselves 9-under and 8-under, respectively. Smith is tied with Sam Ryder, Morgan Hoffmann, Harris English, Harold Varner III and Brian Harman.
Lashley, Richy Werenski and Lanto Griffin form the trio at 8-under.
Smith recorded six birdies in Friday’s bogey-free round.
“I’ve had probably a month off golf now. It’s nice to be back playing competitively again,” Smith said. “The course is lovely; the resort is lovely. It’s my first time here. Just soaking it all in.”
One day after shooting a 65, Ryder came back with a 66, leaving himself in good position entering the weekend.
“I had a really clean front nine,” Ryder said of his 31. “Other than the ball just kind of not going quite as far because it was chillier early, the greens still had some firmness to them. The course is in really, really good shape.”
Bubba Watson will be around for the weekend after Friday’s 67 left him at 4-under. Watson’s round included an eagle on the par-4 7th hole on a shot from 60 yards.
Watson played with defending champion Kevin Na, who shot an even par 70 in the second round. Na enters the weekend 6-under par and seven back of Scheffler.
“I hit some really bad short irons, which is very unlike me,” Na said. “It’s usually the strength in my game.
“My body wasn’t feeling all that great this morning. Just get some rest and tee off tomorrow.”
Mason Williams, who qualified to play by winning the West Virginia Amateur last month, shot a 74 Friday. The Bridgeport native and sophomore at Georgia Southern finished 7-over par in his first PGA Tour event. Marshall graduate Davey Jude shot a second-round 75 and also missed the cut.
Bryson DeChambeau, the highest-ranked golfer in the field at No. 10, missed the cut at 2-under par following a 70 in the second round.