On a sweltering day at Congressional Country Club that will be remembered for the unforgiving heat, Hunter Mahan found a way to be even hotter.
The Oklahoma State University product fired a tournament-best 6-under-par 65 to move up seven spots and into first place on the leaderboard at the AT&T National. Mahan enters play on Saturday at 135 for the tournament, two strokes ahead of Brendon de Jonge, Jimmy Walker, and Robert Garrigus, who are all knotted at 137 through the opening two rounds.
“I hit so many fairways and greens, I made it easy on myself,” said Mahan, who ranks first in greens in regulation and third in driving accuracy for the tournament. “This is a pretty punishing golf course if you get off line a little bit.”
Mahan gave away a birdie on the first hole with a bogey on the par-3 second, but then knocked in putts of 3 1/2 feet, 1 foot, 5 feet, 7 inches, and 28-4 on holes 4, 6, 8, and 9 to close the front side at a tournament-low 32.
A bogeyless back nine coupled with two more birdies on 16 and 18 leave him comfortably as the leader in the air-conditioned clubhouse.
“This is fun, this is a great test,” he said. “You know, I feel like it's not unfair. I think it gives you birdie opportunities. You just have to take advantage.”
Mahan sits atop a leaderboard filled with scramblers and grinders. The top 10 includes just two players aside from him with a world ranking better than 100 — Vijay Singh and Garrigus. But still lurking is Tiger Woods, who charged ahead in the morning with a 3-under-par 68 that left him in a tie for 11th with first-round leader Bo Van Pelt, Charley Hoffman, and last weekend's Travelers Championship winner Marc Leishman.
“I thought that today I got more out of my round,” said Woods, who moved up 19 spots. “On a golf course like this, you're not going to hit it perfect all day, it's just too difficult.”
After teeing off on No. 10, the tournament host managed to stay at even for the round with two key saves on the 14th and 15th holes. He used some deft wedge work from 76 yards on the 14th to tap in from a little more than 3 feet and then again from 90 yards on the 15th to save par with a 6-footer.
And then the par-5 16th was just pure, vintage Tiger. He pounded a 339-yard drive down the left side of the fairway, putting him 240 yards from the green. His approach wound up up 48 feet from the hole. To the roars of the sweat-streaked crowd, his eagle putt dropped. For the first time of the tournament, Tiger Woods was in the red.
“I was waiting for it to feed back because it was hanging, hanging, hanging, and then it just fell right in,” he said.
He gave a shot back with a bogey on the first after yanking his drive into the left rough, but still managed to rattle off two more birds on holes five and eight to put him in striking distance for the weekend.
“I shot 68 today, which was, I thought, was a very good score,” he said. “I'm only three back and I'm right there.”
Notables missing the cut (+6)
— Not even a 2-under 69 could save Lucas Glover from his catastrophic 80 in the first round. He missed the cut by one.
— Amateur Jordan Spieth will have to watch his future teammate at the University of Texas, Beau Hossler, battle the heat and the increasingly difficult blue course. The U.S. Junior Amateur champion missed the cut by two.
— 2007 U.S. Open and 2009 Masters champion Angel Cabrera struggled to break 80, finishing 8-over for the day and the tournament and two over the cut line.
— K.J. Choi missed his fourth cut in seven tries, finishing at 10-over.