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Zalatoris shows Will power to lead US PGA

3 minute read

Will Zalatoris is leading the PGA Championship with great shots and a good draw, but the Australian challenge has faded away.

The wind finally relented on Friday in the US PGA Championship but Will Zalatoris never did to take the lead at the Southern Hills Country Club.

From the fairway or the rough, Zalatoris kept hitting the golf ball on the button during the second round to take advantage of gentler conditions late in the afternoon for a four-under 66.

He leads by one from Chilean Mito Pereira, while the weekend will also include Tiger Woods in his second straight major - a remarkable achievement in its own right.

Playing on a battered right leg from his car crash 15 months ago, Woods was outside the cut line after a double bogey on the par-3 11th hole.

He played the final seven holes with two birdies and a pair of 15-foot par saves for a 69 to make it with one shot to spare.

But he's 12 shots away from Zalatoris, the 25-year-old from Dallas who is built like a one-iron and could probably hit one flush with his eyes closed.

No doubt Zalatoris and his entire side of the draw was helped when the wind that gusted over 30 mph on Friday morning laid down over the final two hours.

Bubba Watson had a shot at the first 62 in PGA Championship history. He missed from just inside 25 feet on the 18th hole and had to settle for the 18th round of 63 in this major, and the third at Southern Hills. He joined Woods (2007) and Raymond Floyd (1982).

Pereira also had a chance at 63, missing from seven feet on the ninth hole to close his round.

"I lucked out with the draw, for sure. We played 11 on without any wind," Zalatoris said. "When I got out of position, I got the most out of it."

He had a bogey-free card, with all five of his birdies from inside eight feet.

Zalatoris was at nine-under 131.

All Justin Thomas could do was watch from the couch of his rental home in Tulsa.

Thomas did the heavy lifting in the morning, when the wind was raging and limbs were swaying. He dropped only one shot on his way to another 67 that set a daunting target for Rory McIlroy and everyone else in the afternoon.

And now Thomas is three shots behind, with Watson right behind him.

Of some two dozen players under par, only five came from the wave that played Thursday afternoon and Friday morning, the two windiest windows of the week.

McIlroy got the good side of the draw and failed to seize on the moment. He didn't make a birdie until the 13th hole. That was his only one in a round of 71 that left him five shots behind.

Jordan Spieth, playing alongside McIlroy and Woods, finally got back to even par for the tournament until driving into the water on the 18th for a bogey and a 69. He was 10 shots behind in his bid to get the major keeping him from the career grand slam.

The Australian challenge faded with Cameron Smith (70) now seven behind Zalatoris at two under.

But he will consider himself lucky as his errant tee-shot on the second didn't do any serious damage to Aaron Wise, who was struck on the head while on the seventh fairway.

Lucas Herbert (73, one over), Marc Leishman (71), Jason Day (72, both two over) and Cam Davis (72, four-over) made the weekend.

Zalatoris and Pereira, who led the Korn Ferry Tour a year ago, will be in the final group Saturday, two players still searching for their first PGA Tour title.

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