SAO PAULO, Brazil – Danny Lee of New Zealand fired a second straight 6-under 65 Friday and moved into sole possession of the clubhouse lead in the rain-delayed Brasil Classic on the Web.com Tour.
Following a 3 ½-hour rain delay to start play, Lee rattled off eight birdies at the Sao Paulo Golf Club and settled in at 12-under 130, five shots better than anyone else who has completed 36 holes.
South African Dawie van der Walt (66), Australia’s Aron Price (65) and local professional Phillipe Gasnier (68) are done at 7-under 135 while Michael Putnam (65), first-round co-leader Tom Hoge (71) and Oklahoma State’s Kevin Tway (69) are next at 6-under 136.
Half the field is still on the course and will return early Saturday to finish Round 2, which is being played under lift, clean and place conditions after 1.45 inches of rain fell early in the day.
Sweden’s Richard S. Johnson is 4 under thru 11 holes and is 10 under par, tops among those still playing.
Jonathan Hodge, Tim Wilkinson and Sao Paulo native Alex Rocha are all 7 under par with plenty of holes to go.
Two weeks ago, Lee was under the weather and considered not playing in the Monday qualifier for the PGA Tour’s Shell Houston Open, but decided he’d give it a try. Out of the bad came the good.
“I could not aim properly with my putter,” said Lee. “I just decided to line the ball up [using the line stamped on the ball] on my putts.”
It was something the 22-year-old Lee had done during a stellar amateur career that included the 2008 U.S. Amateur title, which displaced Tiger Woods as the youngest ever to win the event.
“I don’t know why I stopped,” said Lee. “I shot only 2 under in Houston, but it kind of clicked for me.”
Lee is suddenly comfortable on the greens again and appears ready to reclaim a spot on the PGA Tour, but first he’ll have to settle his nerves.
He was the first-round leader at the Colombia Championship last month, but posted consecutive 74s and dropped to a tie for 44th. He was two strokes off the lead at the midpoint of the Chile Classic the next week, but had to settle for a tie for sixth when he failed to muster a charge on the leaders.
In his last start at the Chitimacha Louisiana Open two weeks ago, he was again in the top 10 after 36 holes, but a 72-74 weekend dropped him into a tie for 52nd.
“I put too much pressure on myself, but who doesn’t? You’re in contention and if you shoot two more good rounds you could be holding a trophy,” he said. “I was thinking ahead of myself and instead of hitting the golf ball I was thinking about holding the trophy. I know I’m good enough to make that happen.”
Lee was cruising along nicely Friday until he reached the 545-yard, eighth hole, his 17th of the day. With a 10-20 mph wind in his face and water guarding the right side of the green, Lee decided to play conservatively.
“I was trying to lay up. I had 217 yards to the water and there was no way I could get a 3-iron there,” he said. “I misjudged the wind, it was left to right.”
Lee salvaged a bogey after hitting the water and then knocked in a 12-foot birdie putt at the par-3 ninth to polish off his day.
“My body feels good and my game feels good right now,” said Lee. “My putting has been really good for two days. I’m taking my time more with my putts and it’s working.”
Van der Walt was challenging Lee and put six birdies and an eagle on the board to reach 10 under par through 15 holes, but three-putted twice down the stretch and wound up with a 5-under 66.
“I hit the ball really good all day today,” he said. “I felt like I had a lot of chances, almost every hole.”
His big hiccup came at the last – the 175-yard ninth – where he pushed his tee shot to the right and into a greenside bunker.
“I looked up and all I could see was out of bounds over the green,” said the transplanted Texan. “I didn’t hit a very good shot and then I’ve 20 feet or so. I was trying to so hard to make par that I never thought about a double.”
His first putt charged five feet past the cup and he missed the next one coming back.
--Dawie van der Walt, 30, earned a win last month at the inaugural Tshwane Open, an event co-sanctioned by the European Tour and southern Africa’s Sunshine Tour. He was one of four co-leaders after 54 holes at the Copperleaf Golf and Country Estate in Centurion, South Africa, and then fired a 67 on the last day to beat veteran Darren Fichardt by two shots.
--Phillipe Gasnier is a 33-year-old conditional member of the PGA Tour Latinoamerica. He was born in Rio de Janeiro and now lives in Orlando, Fla.
He finished tied for eighth in the Mundo Maya Open (Mexico) to begin the season last fall, but that was his only top-10 in seven starts. He has missed the cut in both of his starts in 2013. His only start on the PGA Tour came at the 2008 U.S. Open, where he missed the cut.
--Rafael Barcellos bogeyed his final two holes for an even-par 71 and a 5-under 137 total. Barcellos, 41, is one of the teaching professionals at the Sao Paulo Golf Club who regularly plays on the Brazilian Tour. He was a member of Brazil’s 2009 World Cup team.
--Host professional Erik Andersson birdied his next-to-last hole to wind up a 3-under par 139, which should be more than enough to play the final 36 holes in front of his club members.
--Fernando Mechereffe is in his second full season as a member of the Web.com Tour. The 2004 North Carolina State graduate grew up some 875 miles from Sao Paulo in the southern state of Rio Grande. His hometown of Pelotas is about 80 miles from the Uruguayan border.
He tied for 13th at the Chile Classic a few weeks ago and his making only his second start in 2013. He made 11 cuts in 24 starts last year and wound up No. 90 on the Tour money list.
--Kevin Tway, 24, is a conditional member of the Web.com Tour making his first start of the year. The former Oklahoma State Cowboy holed out from the bunker on his final hole to close with back-to-back birdies and 2-under 69. Tway made the cut in two of four starts last year and tied for fifth at the Miccosukee Championship.