Champ seizes early PGA lead after sizzling front-nine 28

Washington (AFP) –


Cameron Champ, seeking the second victory of his inaugural US PGA Tour season, fired an eight-under par 28 on his front nine Friday to seize the Rocket Mortgage Classic clubhouse lead.

The 24-year-old American carded a seven-under 65 in the second round to finish 36 holes at Detroit Golf Club atop the leaderboard on 13-under 131, two strokes ahead of countryman Ryan Armour with half the field still on the course.

Champ, who missed the cut in eight of his past 10 starts, ran off five birdies in a row starting at the second hole, then added an eagle at the par-5 seventh and birdied the ninth to reach the turn at a career-low 28.

He needed only 12 putts on the front side and reached both par-5 greens in two.

Champ, ranked 128th, made birdie putts from six feet at two, 11 feet at the third, eight feet at the par-5 fourth, 13 feet at the par-3 fifth and 14 feet at the sixth, then eagled from seven feet at seven and dropped a birdie putt from just inside 19 feet at the par-3 ninth.

"The putt on five, the par-3 there, was a big breaker downhill. I put it right down the middle," Champ said. "On six same thing. Everything kept flowing. For the first nine holes, the hole looked pretty big for a while."

While visions of breaking 60 abounded, Champ struggled on the back nine, making bogey at 13 and following a birdie at the par-5 17th on a nine-foot putt with a closing bogey, missing a four-footer for par.

"The back side, I really didn't play terrible. I just hit a few shots that limited my ability to get it close to the hole," Champ said. "Missed a few putts I wish I could get back but that's how it goes."

Champ's only prior US PGA title came last October at the start of the current campaign when he captured the Sanderson Farms Championship, which was played opposite the WGC HSBC Champions event in Shanghai.

Sharing third in the clubhouse on 134 were South Korean An Byeong-Hun, Slovakia's Rory Sabbatini and American Peter Malnati.

Gary Woodland, the American who won his first major title two weeks ago at the US Open at Pebble Beach, fired a 69 but stood on 142, just over the projected cut line.

Also looking like a no-show for the weekend was world number two Dustin Johnson, also on 142 after a second 71.