GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) — Russell Henley remained in a familiar spot with a 4-under 66 on Friday that gave him the lead at the Wyndham Championship for the fifth time in the last 10 rounds, just not the round that counts toward winning.
Billy Horschel and Justin Thomas made late moves that could help salvage their seasons.
The Wyndham Championship is the final PGA Tour stop before the lucrative postseason begins for the top 70 players in the FedEx Cup.
Henley led the opening three rounds in 2021 before stumbling on the final nine and making bogey on the last hole to miss out on a playoff. He’s off to another solid start this year. He opened with a 62, and then finished off his second round with two straight birdies.
Henley was at 12-under 128, one shot ahead of Horschel, who has just as much at stake. Horschel is at No. 116 in the FedEx Cup and most likely needs to finish alone in second to secure a spot in the playoffs that start next week in Memphis, Tennessee.
He rose to task with a 62, his lowest score ever on the PGA Tour that featured an eagle on the par-4 eighth hole when he holed out from 94 yards, and three straight birdies over the closing stretch to move into second place.
“I’m excited where my game’s going. We’ve still got a long ways to go to get back to where I would like to be in this game of golf, but at least we’ve got momentum behind us pushing us forward now,” Horschel said.
Horschel knows what he has to do. He also realizes odds were against him making the postseason, so he had already booked a trip to the Bahamas with his family.
“Listen, it’s a win-win. I either go to Memphis or I go to Abaco with my kids and wife for a week,” he said. “So we’ll see what happens this weekend.”
Lucas Glover also needs a runner-up finish for his season to keep going. He had a 64 and was in the large group at at 130 that included Brendon Todd (63), Sea Island winner Adam Svensson (67) and Byeong Hun An, who capped off his 67 by holing out for eagle from the ninth fairway.
Much of the attention was on Thomas, who is No. 79 in the FedEx Cup and is in danger of missing the FedEx Cup playoffs for the first time. More than the postseason, his Ryder Cup hopes could hinge on whether he gets to play again before the 12-man team is filled out.
Thomas opened with a 70 and his first step was to make sure he didn’t miss the cut for the third straight tournament. It didn’t start all that promising, missing a 6-foot birdie putt on No. 1 and a 3-foot par putt on No. 3. But the two-time PGA champion hit his stride and looked to be gaining plenty of confidence.
He was right on the cut line at 2-under par when Thomas holed a 12-foot birdie putt on No. 12. He made a 10-foot birdie on the par-5 15th, and then looked to be in trouble on the par-3 16th when his tee shot caught a severe ridge and rolled off the green down a slope.
Thomas pitched it perfectly, and it rolled in for an unlike birdie. He finished his round of 65 by making an 8-foot par putt.
“I was going to give it the best I had and shoot as low as I could whether that was 65 or 75 today. Fortunately for me it was a 65,” Thomas said. “I’m just going to go do the best I can and just give it everything I have this weekend because don’t have much to lose.”
He likely needs to finish around 15th or better to get into the top 70, all of that depending on what everyone else does around him. Thomas played the opening two rounds with Adam Scott (No. 81) and Shane Lowry (No. 76).
Scott, who opened with a 75, didn’t make a birdie over the last 12 holes and shot 71, leaving him eight shots behind in a tie for 31st. He likely needs to finish in the top 10 and at least has the weekend to make his move.
Lowry was right around the bubble until his long birdie attempt on the 16th rolled off the green and down the slope, leading to a double bogey. He birdied the 18th for a 69 and was nine shots behind in a tie for 42nd.