Scottie Scheffler leads Byron Nelson; Palmer, Hughes 1 shot back
McKINNEY, Texas (AP) — Scottie Scheffler says he tries not to put too much emphasis on winning one tournament over another, even when his hometown AT&T Byron Nelson is in play.
Ryan Palmer isn't keeping any secrets. Win the Nelson not far from his home in another Dallas-Fort Worth suburb, knowing it would qualify the 46-year-old Texan for next week's PGA Championship?
“I'd win this tournament and stay home next week, to be honest with you,” said Palmer, who lives in Colleyville but was born and raised in Amarillo in West Texas. “That means more to me.”
Scheffler shot his second consecutive 7-under 64 on Friday for a one-shot lead over Palmer and Mackenzie Hughes. Palmer's 65 and a 64 from Hughes put them at 13-under 129. Si Woo Kim shot 66 and was 11 under.
S.Y. Noh, who tied the course record with an opening-round 60, birdied his first two holes before playing the final 16 in 5 over. The South Korean had three 6s in a round of 74 and was 8 under, six shots back.
Two-time defending champion K.H. Lee made the cut on the number at 4 under, but the South Korean's bid to become the first player in 12 years to win a tournament three consecutive times is all but gone. Lee birdied three of his final six holes just to make the weekend.
Last year, Scheffler shared the hometown spotlight with fellow former Texas Longhorn Jordan Spieth, who had to withdraw from this year's event because of a wrist injury.
Spieth doesn't hide his desire to win the tournament where he was a Sunday contender 13 years ago at age 16.
Also raised in Dallas, Scheffler made his PGA Tour debut at the Nelson four years after Spieth's stunning run, making the cut and recording a hole-in-one as a high school senior.
“I want to win a lot of tournaments,” said Scheffler, who would return to No. 1 in the world for the third time this year with a victory. “This one being in the hometown, it would definitely be a lot of fun with the crowd behind me this weekend.
“But that’s not stuff that occupies too many of my thoughts,” Scheffler said. “I don’t want to place too much emphasis on one tournament. I just want to go out and do my best and see where that puts me.”
Scheffler and Spieth should have plenty of Nelsons in their futures. Palmer, who shares a coach and plenty of practice time with Scheffler, is 20 years older than the 2022 Masters champion.
After what he said was the earliest wakeup time in 20 years on tour (3:50 a.m.) for a 7:01 tee time, Palmer had seven birdies and a bogey a day after eight birdies and a bogey.
A year ago, Palmer was tied for the 36-hole lead at 15 under, musing then that he was the older, maybe forgotten Texan with all the attention on the three-time major winner Spieth and Scheffler, the defending Masters champ at the time.
Palmer's last tour win came at a team event with Jon Rahm, the current No. 1, four years ago. His most recent solo victory was 13 years ago.
“I’ve just got to keep the gas pedal down,” Palmer said. “I think we’re going to get a lot of rain (Saturday), it sounds like and possibly Sunday, so it could be a very patient weekend.”
Right on cue, the tour announced earlier tee times with threesomes off Nos. 1 and 10 for Saturday, hoping to beat a rainy forecast. The outlook is the same for Sunday.
Scheffler took his first outright lead with a birdie at No. 3, his 12th hole of the day. The 26-year-old was bogey-free until his 17th hole on No. 8 but answered with his eighth birdie of the day at the par-5 ninth.
“Just solid golf,” said Scheffler, who opened with a pair of 64s or better for the first time in his career. “I didn’t really struggle for too many pars out there, and I felt like I putted a little bit better today than yesterday.”
Noh, who passed up a chance to go for the 18th green in two in the first round when an eagle would have given him a 59, had a double bogey on the par-4 second, his 11th hole. He had to take a penalty drop when his drive went into the trees as he capped a four-hole stretch at 4 over.
Hughes, whose second tour victory came in a playoff at the Sanderson Farms Championship in October, had seven birdies in a second consecutive bogey-free round.
The highlight for Hughes was a bump-and-run chip-in for birdie on the par-4 16th, which is playing as the most difficult hole.
“Had the whole length of the green to work with, so I felt like it was a good spot to get up-and-down for par and did one better,” Hughes said. “Hadn’t done that in a while, so that felt pretty good.”
Aaron Wise, the 2018 Nelson winner, will be around for the weekend in his first tournament in two months after saying he needed to take time off to focus on his mental health. Wise was 4 under.
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