Hometown hero Daniel Berger, seeking a fifth career US PGA title, fired a second-straight five-under par 65 to grab the lead through Friday’s second round of the Honda Classic.
The 28-year-old from nearby Jupiter, Florida, stood on 10-under 130 to seize a three-stroke lead after 36 holes at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens.
“My game’s in a great place so I feel comfortable,” Berger said. “You’ve just got to take it a shot at a time and really just stay patient because it is such a challenging golf course.”
American Kurt Kitayama, the 18-hole leader after an opening 64, put his second shot six feet from the cup at the par-5 18th and sank his eagle putt to share second with compatriot Chris Kirk on 133.
Canada’s Adam Svensson and American Mark Hubbard shared fourth on 134, one stroke ahead of American Chase Seifert and Austrian Sepp Straka.
The final threesome did not finish the final hole before darkness and will conclude play Saturday morning before round three begins.
Berger, ranked 21st, says sleeping at home and having his mother cook has helped his game this week.
“I definitely eat better when she’s cooking, that’s for sure,” Berger said. “Sleeping in my own bed it’s an amazing feeling.
“It’s just nice to sit down in your own kitchen or your own bedroom and just feel like you’re at home and not be in a hotel. We spend a lot of weeks and the road so it’s nice to be at home.”
Berger, a back-nine starter, sank a 12-foot birdie putt at the 13th, found a bunker at the par-3 15th and made his lone bogey, then rolled in a 17-foot birdie putt at the par-4 16th and blasted a bunker shot inside three feet at the par-5 18th to set up a birdie tap-in.
“It was nice that we got it kind of earlier on in the round where the wind wasn’t as strong and maybe they were a little softer,” Berger said of the difficult closing holes.
After back-to-back birdies at the par-5 third and par-4 fourth, Berger sank his longest and last birdie putt of the day from 38 feet at the par-3 seventh.
“The pins are tucked, the greens are firm, wind’s up, so you have to be really on point with where you’re going to miss the ball,” said Berger. “They are so difficult that to hit it to 20 feet is a good shot.”
Berger seeks his first title since last February at Pebble Beach. He has come close before at PGA National, losing a playoff to Irishman Padraig Harrington in 2015.
World number 284 Kitayama, a two-time winner on the DP World Tour seeking his first US PGA title, missed the cut in his past five PGA starts.
Kitayama won the 2018 Mauritius Open and 2019 Oman Open but his best finish in 25 prior PGA starts was 17th at the 2017 Puerto Rico Open.
Kirk, 36, recorded the most recent of his four PGA titles in 2015 at Colonial.