Si Woo Kim upstaged star draws Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth at the Valero Texas Open as he fired a second-round 66 including a hole-in-one.
Kim led overnight after his opening 66 at TPC San Antonio, and he matched that score on day two to surge into a commanding four-shot lead at the halfway stage, with Fowler and Spieth leading the chasing pack on eight under.
The South Korean, chasing his first PGA Tour title since cruising to victory at The Players Championship almost two years ago, picked up two birdies in a solid, outward 34 before rolling in a great putt from 22 feet at the 12th.
Kim’s fourth gain of the round arrived at the long 14th, and he then produced the highlight of the tournament at the 167-yard 16th, where his perfect nine-iron drew straight towards the target and caught the back of the hole on the second bounce before dropping for a thrilling ace.
That swept him to 12 under, and he did well to save par at the next after almost leaving his second shot in a fairway bunker, while a cast-iron par at 18 completed another excellent day’s work.
Canada’s Corey Connors had earlier set the clubhouse target at eight under after he birdied four of the last five holes to return a 67, and he soon had company in the shape of Spieth when the three-time major winner carded an entertaining 68.
Spieth offset four birdies with two bogeys in an erratic back-nine 34, and he hit back from another dropped shot at the first with a birdie at the next before picking up an unlikely eagle at the eighth when his 113-yard wedge pitched and spun into the cup for a three.
Harold Varner III and Adam Schenk then joined the logjam on eight under as they fired seven-birdie 66s before Kyoung-Hoon Lee blotted his six birdie card with his only bogey of the day at his final hole to slip out of outright second place.
Fan-favourite Fowler got his round up-and-running with a cracking drive to four-feet at the 327-yard fifth which set up an eagle-two, and he capped a front-nine 33 with a monster 45-foot putt for birdie at the ninth.
After a birdie at 10, he got another big putt to drop at the 13th which got him to nine under, although his challenge stuttered with a three-putt bogey at 15 and a mistake at the next before clawing one back at the penultimate hole as he and Spieth both handed in back-to-back 68s.
Last week’s winner in the Dominican Republic, Graeme McDowell, continued his encouraging resurgence with another 69 which included three birdies and an eagle at the 14th, although he is likely to need something lower to trouble Kim on Saturday as he heads into the weekend six shots off the pace.
Ernie Els and Matt Kuchar are two strokes further adrift, while Padraig Harrington recovered from an early double-bogey to salvage a 71 which got him into the final 36 holes with nothing to spare on one under par.
(c) Sky News 2019: Texas Open: Hole-in-one helps Si Woo Kim open up four-shot lead