Will Zalatoris shot an 11-under-par 61 on Friday to move into a three-way tie atop the leaderboard with Sahith Theegala and Nick Watney after two rounds of the Sanderson Farms Championship in Jackson, Miss.
The leaders are tied at 13 under at the Country Club of Jackson. Two more Americans, rookies Cameron Young and Hayden Buckley, are tied for fourth at 12 under.
However, the clear standout of Friday’s round was Zalatoris, who hit 17 of 18 greens in regulation and did not miss a putt under 10 feet. He finished with 11 birdies on the day, draining a 12-foot birdie putt on No. 9 — his final hole of the day — to match the event’s 18-hole scoring record.
Keith Clearwater carded the only other 61 at the Sanderson Farms Championship back in 1996.
“If anything, my goal for this year is to win a golf tournament,” said Zalatoris, the PGA Tour’s 2020-21 Rookie of the Year. “I did a really good job today of everything that I’ve worked on over the past six, seven weeks. It really clicked. A lot better wedge game, a lot better speed control with the putter and I drove it a lot better today.
“(With) driving, I’ve got the distance, but when I hit fairways is when I shoot low rounds. So everything kind of came together today.”
Theegala, the first-round leader, drained a 29-foot birdie putt on his final hole of the day Friday to finish at 67, marking his first career 36-hole lead or co-lead on tour.
“Me and my caddie exchanged a little wry smile there, for sure,” Theegala said. “I played really well today. I hit the ball pretty much where I was looking almost all day and I had so many opportunities go by on that back nine there, so to finally see one go in was really cool.”
Watney, meanwhile, posted his lowest 36-hole total since 2015. The 40-year-old is seeking his first win on tour since 2012.
“I don’t really feel like I’m in competition with any other person,” Watney said. “I’m in competition with myself to see if I can handle championship golf. So I’m really excited and I feel like I’m building.”
Andy Ogletree, the 2019 U.S. Amateur champion, played his second round since returning from a five-month absence caused by hip surgery. He shot a 68 and is tied for 13th at 9 under.
Sergio Garcia of Spain, the defending champion, missed the cut by one stroke after shooting 70 for the second straight day.
–Field Level Media