Schauffele leads Morikawa by 1 entering weekend at PGA

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Xander Schauffele followed up his record-tying, major championship-low 62 on Thursday with a 3-under 68 on Friday and holds a 1-stroke lead over Collin Morikawa heading into the third round of the PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club.

Schauffele made his first bogey of the tournament on the 11th hole, but it was the only blemish the world No. 3 had, as he made four birdies and was able to hold on to his first-round lead in his search for his first major championship victory.

"I think as soon as 62 was posted there's just blood in the water," Schauffele said. "I feel like everyone -- if it was roles were reversed, it's sort of like everyone sort of feels they can shoot low now. That's just kind of how it goes out here. So yeah, I think it definitely helps to keep the head down, at least for now. It's only two rounds."

Despite coming up short last week against Rory McIlroy at the Wells Fargo Championship, Schauffele's game has not missed a beat. He is ranked second at Valhalla in strokes gained off the tee, and no one has hit more greens in regulation (83%).

If the Thursday 62 was a display of his supreme talent, then Friday's 68 was a showcase of Schauffele's patience.

"When you haven't won a golf tournament in a few years, you have to be pretty resilient," said Schauffele, who last won at the 2022 Scottish Open. "I'm just patient and trying to play the best golf I can and stay out of my own way."

Still, Schauffele knows he will have to conjure something closer to Thursday's opening round come the weekend if he wants to engineer a wire-to-wire win.

"I think when you're trying to climb this mountain here -- let's put Scottie Scheffler at the very tip top of it and everyone else sort of somewhere down on the hillside grabbing on for dear life is what it feels like. You just get comfortable in certain times," Schauffele said. "The more times I have a lead, the more comfortable I'll feel, the better I'll sleep. I think I'll just get more confidence the more I can do it."

Morikawa played his last 12 holes Thursday in 7 under par and continued that hot stretch Friday by carding seven birdies and one bogey en route to an 11-under total.

The two-time major champion, most recently at the 2021 Open Championship, was in the final group with Scheffler at this year's Masters but ultimately finished third after a final-round 2-over 74.

"I know I still have it in me, and that's what's exciting," Morikawa said. "After Augusta, it sucked to finish like that and it sucked to lose to Scottie, but at the end of the day, I knew I had three more majors coming up and to prep for that and get things as sharp as possible and just come out strong. It's obviously nice to get off to this start."

Morikawa last won a PGA Tour event at the Zozo Championship in 2023, and he has struggled to return to the winner's circle at events with the best players in the world. Some of those struggles can be attributed to his putter. Despite three top-10 finishes this season, he ranks 128th on the PGA Tour in strokes gained: putting.

That has changed in recent months, evidenced by his results at Valhalla. Morikawa said Thursday that his putter "feels great," and so far this week, he has had three different stretches where he has made three straight birdies.

On Friday, he one-upped himself by making five straight birdies in his final six holes -- the longest birdie streak of his career.

"I've been putting great so far since Augusta, so it's nice to just kind of keep that trend going," said Morikawa, who added that he has been helped by a stronger grip on his putter.

Morikawa's round might have been the highlight of the early wave, but plenty of other players made their moves and took advantage of the soft conditions on the rain-filled morning, including Scheffler, who shot 5-under par to stay 2 shots back of Morikawa as part of a "chaotic" day for the world No. 1.

Sahith Theegala had another one of the low rounds Friday (4 under) despite hitting it into the hospitality tent off the 10th tee and getting relief not once, but twice. He bogeyed that hole -- his only of the day -- and sits alone in third at 10 under.

Bryson DeChambeau, the 2021 U.S. Open winner, quietly rose up the leaderboard and tied Morikawa's low round of Friday (6 under). He is tied for fourth at 9 under, alongside Scheffler, Germany's Thomas Detry (67) and Mark Hubbard (68).

DeChambeau missed a birdie putt 18 minutes after play was suspended for darkness at 8:41 p.m. with just a few groups left on the golf course.

Austin Eckroat is at 8 under after a 67 alongside reigning Tour Championship winner Viktor Hovland, who is putting together his strongest performance of the year.

Meanwhile, Harris English, another player on the leaderboard looking for his first major win, was part of the group at 7 under after a 67.

"That's why I practice and prepare. That's why I started playing golf when I was 7 or 8 years old is watching Tiger [Woods] win these things," English said of the possibility of winning a major. "It would be huge. It would be huge for my career and a validation of all the work I've put in. I feel like if I keep putting myself in these positions and keep getting closer and closer and hopefully knock the door down pretty soon."