Daniel Berger carries lead into weekend at Honda Classic after consecutive 65s


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PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — Daniel Berger knows better than most what it takes to win the Honda Classic, having lost in a playoff here as a PGA Tour rookie in 2015.

Halfway through this year’s tournament, after back-to-back rounds of 65 for a 10-under-par 130 total, the South Florida native is poised to add his most meaningful title to the four he’s won already.

“Every tournament I play in I want to win,” said Berger, of Jupiter. “But it would be especially nice to win here having so many friends and family here with me this week.”

After Friday’s round under sunny blue skies with temperatures in the high 70s and a steady breeze, Berger has a three-shot lead over Chris Kirk, who is 7 under on rounds of 65-68, and first-day leader Kurt Kitayama, who followed his opening 64 with a 69 that was highlighted by a 6-foot eagle putt on the par-5 18th hole.

Adam Svensson (69-65) is tied for fourth at 6 under with Mark Hubbard, whose 64 Friday tied for the low round with Sepp Straka. Straka (71-64) is tied for sixth place at 5 under with Chase Seiffert (69-66).

Play was suspended at 6:37 p.m. because of darkness with Andrew Kozan, of Palm Beach Gardens, the lone golfer remaining on the course. Kozan hit his tee shot on the 18th hole 283 yards, leaving him 258 yards from the pin when he stopped playing. He needs to make a par when he returns this morning to make the cut at 2-over-par 142.

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Daniel Berger watches his shot from the fourth tee during the second round of The Honda Classic golf tournament. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

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Among those who missed the cut were defending champion Matt Jones, who was 7 over (73-74), and 2020 champ Sungjae Im, who was 4 over (74-70). Other notables were Tommy Fleetwood (69-74), Patrick Reed (70-79), Erik Compton (69-82) and Matthew Wolff (81-76).

Starting on the 10th hole Friday, Berger went out in 2-under 33 with three birdies and a bogey. He birdied holes 3, 4 and 7 coming in for a 3-under 32. In Thursday’s opening round, Berger birdied three of the first four holes on the front nine and added birdies on the ninth and 11th holes for his bogey-free 65.

“Actually, I thought I played a little better today,” said Berger, 28. “I’m rolling the ball really well, my distance control is really good with my irons and I’m hitting a lot of fairways, so I’m doing a lot of really good things.

“There were some difficult pins out there. I think I hung in there when I didn’t quite hit the shots that I was looking to hit.”

A key to Friday’s round was a gritty par on the 12th hole, his third of the day. Berger hit his drive into a fairway bunker, then hit his next shot into a greenside bunker, 87 feet from the hole. He blasted out to 12 feet and sank the putt.

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“I think that early save for par on 12 was really nice for me to kind of get the momentum and keep it going,” Berger said. “I hit a good drive and just got caught up in the bunker there and hit a good bunker shot and made a nice putt. So it was just a nice overall par.”

Berger then birdied the par-4 13th with a 12-foot, 9-inch putt. He bogeyed the 170-yard, par-3 15th, the first of the three holes that make up the treacherous Bear Trap, after hitting his tee shot into a bunker. He came right back with a birdie on the par-4 16th, sinking a 17-foot putt. He got up and down for birdie from a greenside bunker at the par-5 18th, then cruised through the front nine.

“To play the Bear Trap well is always important,” he said. “You have a couple of holes on the front nine where you can make some birdies and I did that. The end of the stretch on the front nine is difficult, and I played those holes well, so overall, it was just a nice round.”

Asked if he thought getting to 10 under par halfway through the tournament was possible when he teed off Thursday, Berger said he didn’t think it was probable given the firm greens and wind, and said 10 under could very well be the winning score on Sunday.

“It’s nice to play well the first couple of days,” said Berger, “and I’ve just got to continue to build off that and do my best to hang around.”

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Kurt Kitayama plays a shot from a bunker on the third hole during the second round of The Honda Classic golf tournament. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

After opening with seven birdies and bogey in his 64 Thursday, Kitayama had two birdies and three bogeys before finishing with his eagle to remain within sight of Berger.

Kirk, who had eight birdies and three bogeys in his 65 Thursday, had four birdies and two bogeys Friday. Starting on the 10th hole, he went out in even par, then birdied holes 1, 2 and 3 before bogeying the sixth.

“It was some good steady golf and I felt like I hit the ball better as the day went on and putted great again,” Kirk said.

Hubbard started the day on the 10th hole at even par. He birdied Nos. 13, 14 and 15, and on the front he eagled the par-5 third with an 18-foot putt, and birdied 4 and 5. A bogey at the eighth kept him from shooting a tournament-low 63.

“I made a lot of putts, but I feel like I missed a few opportunities, too,” Hubbard said. “I hit a lot of good iron shots I didn’t capitalize (on). I’ve just been golfing my ball well lately.”



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